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Friday, January 23, 1998 Published at 19:29 GMT


Pope attacks American embargo
image: [ The Pope addresses tens of thousands of Cubans in Camaguey ]
The Pope addresses tens of thousands of Cubans in Camaguey

Pope John Paul II has attacked the American embargo on Cuba as "deplorable".

In a letter to the Cuban youth he said the embargo affected the most needy in society.

But he added that the 35-year-old embargo was not responsible for all Cuba's troubles.

[ image: Pope John Paul II arrived in his Popemobile]
Pope John Paul II arrived in his Popemobile
He criticised such sanctions as "always deplorable because they hurt the most needy".

The letter was handed to a delegation of Catholic youths at a Mass in Camaguey, 500 kilometres (300 miles) south east of Havana.

He did not read it aloud but a papal spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the Pope would be more outspoken regarding the embargo in speeches before leaving Cuba on Sunday.

In the message and in his spoken homily on Friday, the Pope urged Cubans suffering under a prolonged economic crisis to turn to faith and not give in to hopelessness or the lure of material goods, drugs and sex.

[ image: Flag waving crowds listen to the Pope's address]
Flag waving crowds listen to the Pope's address
He said: "What can I say to you, young people of Cuba, who live under material conditions which are sometimes difficult, who are sometimes frustrated in your legitimate aspirations and are even deprived of hope itself?

"Resist every temptation to flee from the world and from society."

He called on the young to "return to your Cuban and Christian roots, and do all that you can to build a future of ever greater dignity and freedom".

Speaking in front of tens of thousands of young people the Pope also made a special appeal for Cubans to join the priesthood.

He said Cuba "urgently needs priests who belong to this people" as half of Cuba's almost 300 priests are foreigners.

Cuba's younger generation has been embracing religion in increasing numbers in recent years.

While the population is ageing, congregations at both Catholic and Protestant churches, appear to have a disproportionately large number of young people.

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