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Pope urges young Poles to follow teachings

LOWICZ, Poland -- Warmly greeted at a Mass dedicated to Polish youths, Pope John Paul II made an impassioned plea against abortion Monday and urged his country to make Christ the cornerstone of family life.

A papal spokesman, meanwhile, announced that John Paul would fly from Poland to Armenia on Friday to visit the ailing Orthodox patriarch there. That means extending his stay in his homeland an extra night.The 79-year-old pontiff looked tired on the 10th day of the 13-day pilgrimage intended to sum up his 20-year papacy as the new millennium approaches. But his message remained powerful, encouraging devotion and adherence to Catholic liturgy and teachings as interest in the church wanes in post-communist Poland.

"Here, from this place, I say to all the fathers and mothers of my homeland and of the whole world, to all men and women without exception: Every child conceived in the womb of its mother has the right to life," he said, emphasizing the final words in his strongest statement against abortion on the pilgrimage.

The crowd of 300,000, including thousands of children and teenagers, applauded frequently during a homily that urged Poles to practice religious traditions as part of daily family life.

The pope listed daily family prayer, going to Sunday Mass and keeping the day holy, observing religious customs and cultivating Christian traditions as practices for being "faithful to your vocation as parents."

"The pope loves young people very much and has your future very much at heart," he said to the nation's children, telling them to love and respect their parents as their dearest friends and "live in friendship" with Christ.

"He is the moral authority for us," said 16-year-old Ola Cynka. "Everybody listens to him and respects him, but when it comes to following his message in everyday life, then it is a different story."

He still wore a small bandage on his right temple for a cut suffered Saturday morning when he fell at the Vatican Embassy in Warsaw. Despite the injury, which required three stitches, John Paul kept to his full schedule.

On Sunday, he told 1 million people at a Mass in Warsaw that the breathless changes in Poland and Eastern Europe in the past decade were God's answer to their prayers.

He repeated a prayer from his 1979 homily that helped inspire the birth a year later of the Solidarity movement, which eventually toppled communism, calling for the Holy Spirit to "renew the face" of his homeland.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pope decided to make the surprise visit to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on Friday to express his "spiritual closeness" with Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Garegin I.

Garegin, 67, had a tumor in his larynx removed at a U.S. hospital late last year and is reported to be struggling with throat cancer.

It will be the first visit by a pope to Armenia, whose Orthodox Church split from the Vatican more than 15 centuries ago.