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Sunday, January 25, 1998 Published at 18:22 GMT


Pope condemns dogmatic communism and capitalism
image: [ Hundreds of thousands filled Havana's Revolution Square ]
Hundreds of thousands filled Havana's Revolution Square

Pope John Paul II has called for reform and freedom of conscience while condemning unfettered capitalism in his last Mass in Cuba on Sunday.

Speaking in the Cuban capital, Havana, the Pope said freedom of conscience is "the basis and foundation of all other human rights".

[ image: John Paul II occasionally tired]
John Paul II occasionally tired
"A modern State cannot make atheism or religion one of its political ordinances," he added.

The Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, a former altar boy, declared Cuba an atheist state after he took power in 1959, though in 1992 Cuba dropped official atheism.

Capitalism also at fault

The Pope also urged an end to Cuba's political and economic isolation: "She needs to open herself to the world and the world needs to draw close to Cuba".

But he also condemned the "resurgence of a certain capitalist neo-liberalism which subordinates the human person to blind market forces" and "often places unbearable burdens upon less favoured countries.

"We thus see a small number of countries growing exceedingly rich at the cost of increasing impoverishment of a great number of countries."

Intense excitement

[ image: Castro smiling despite controversial Pope's message]
Castro smiling despite controversial Pope's message
Fidel Castro, whom the Church blames for decades of persecution of Catholics, urged every able bodied Cuban to show up for the papal mass, if not out of conviction, at least out of respect.

And according to BBC correspondent Tim Gibb there was a mood of intense excitement in a crowd of several hundred thousand.

During the more than three hour address in Havana's Revolution Square, the Pope was constantly interrupted by people chanting, "Long live Juan Pablo; he wants everyone to be free!"

Fidel Castro, sitting in the front row of the Mass, listened intently and smiled occasionally while alongside him sat Nobel-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Colombia.

The Mass, as with his earlier one in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, was also broadcast on television nationwide.

The Pope looked tired at times during the long ceremony, but he was not too weary to joke about it. "I am not against applause, it allows the Pope to rest," he said on one occasion with a wry smile.

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