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Sunday, January 24, 1999 Published at 21:21 GMT

World: Americas

Million at Mexico mass

The Pope arrives at Mexico Ciy racetrack to give Mass

Around one million people packed into a Mexico City racetrack on Sunday to listen to the Pope's last mass of his four-day visit. Thousands more listened outside.

Mexico's faithful perched on tree branches, stood on shoulders and clambered onto loudspeaker stands to view the spectacle.

[ image: Spectators climbed into the trees to get a view of the Pope]
Spectators climbed into the trees to get a view of the Pope

In a speech at the mass, Pope John Paul urged his audience to ignore what he called "untruthful ideologies" and to spread the word of the Catholic Church.

"Do spread the word of Christ to the ignorants! Be brave to tell the gospel in streets and plazas, in valleys and mountains of this country! The church needs more evangelisers," he said.

During his fourth visit to Mexico, he has frequently encouraged the church to combat significant inroads made by Protestantism.

The Pope reiterated a number of themes which have become familiar over his visit.

He demanded respect for the human rights of Indians, ethnic minorities and the poor, and repeated the church's ban on abortion and its emphasis on respect for the family.

Pope tackles wealth gap

Pope John Paul has also used the visit to tackle some of the social issues relevant to the Americas.

[ image:
"Mexico, always faithful!" chanted the crowd.
At a meeting with diplomats, hosted by Mexico's President, Ernesto Zedillo, he warned of the dangers of an increasingly wide wealth gap.

He said that economic progress too often strips workers of their dignity reducing them to mere numbers in an economic equation.

The BBC's Mexico City correspondent, Peter Greste, says that the Pope's remarks were the sharpest indication on this trip of his concern about the effects of free market economics and the impact of foreign debt on developing countries.

Our correspondent says they were also likely to somewhat embarass his host, President Zedillo, an economist whose free market policies have led to a fall in real wages for most Mexicans.

"Mexico, always faithful!" chanted the crowd, their affection undiminished since the Pope's first trip to their country in 1979.

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