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Pope makes powerful plea for Poles to respect life

ZAMOSC, Poland (AP) -- His right temple stitched and bandaged after a fall, Pope John Paul II argued Saturday against abortion, euthanasia and prenatal medical intervention in a powerful plea to his countrymen to respect human life.

Using some of the strongest language so far of the 13-day pilgrimage to his homeland that began June 5, John Paul called such procedures signs of "a real contempt for man."His condemnation of prenatal "interventions and . . . experimentation" seemed to refer to medical procedures such as amniocentesis, which can detect genetic problems in a fetus. Right-wing Solidarity lawmakers in Poland are seeking to restrict the use of such tests as a way to prevent abortions.

The 79-year-old pope carried out his two scheduled events -- a Mass in the 7th century village of Sandomierz and a speech at a prayer meeting in Zamosc, both in southeast Poland -- despite a fall as he left the Vatican Embassy in Warsaw on Saturday morning that gave him a head injury requiring three stitches.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said there were "no neurological repercussions" or other effects from what he called a "slight contusion." He said he did not know what caused the fall, at least the third such accident in the past six years.

It came after the most rigorous day of the pilgrimage so far, including major speeches to parliament and the Polish bishop's synod and several meetings and prayer sessions on Friday.

The pontiff arrived in Sandomierz with a bandage visible just below his skullcap. He had trouble climbing the stairs to his chair and was helped by two aides. But he sounded strong and did not appear to be in pain.

In Zamosc, a Renaissance town in the Polish countryside, the pope spoke of the glory of creation, saying respect for "the laws of nature" needed to be extended to mankind itself.

"Is it really possible to oppose the destruction of the environment while allowing, in the name of comfort and convenience, the slaughter of the unborn and the procured death of the elderly and the infirm, and the carrying out, in the name of progress, of unacceptable interventions and forms of experimentation at the very beginning of human life?" he asked as the audience of 150,000 applauded.