Pope condemns 'anti-life' America: Abortion, contraception and church child-molesters come under fierce attack during US tour

DENVER - The Pope yesterday crusaded against abortion, calling on American Catholics to take up the defence of life and 'preach it from the rooftops'. He delivered his sermon to at least 350,000 people at an open- air Mass to close the Catholic Church's World Youth Day, attended by people from more than 70 countries.

The Pope, who on Saturday condemned what he called an anti-life mentality in the US, yesterday returned to the issue dividing US Catholics and the US in general. He denounced 'a culture of death' he said was seeking to impose itself on society. 'The family is especially under attack. And the sacred character of human life denied.'

The Pope issued what amounted to a series of clarion calls to Catholics to intensify the fight against abortion. 'Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering.'

The Pope hammered home his anti-abortion stand three days after his meeting with President Bill Clinton and just hours before he was due to be seen off by the Vice-President, Al Gore, both of whom strongly support abortion rights.

On Saturday the Pope also spoke out on other issues rocking the US church. He called the molestation of children by Catholic priests 'evil' and said he shared in the 'pain and suffering'. He also urged Catholics to obey the church's ban on artificial birth control.

At least 400 priests in the North American church have been accused of sexually molesting their parishioners. Some 200 cases have been settled in the US and dollars 400m ( pounds 273m) has been paid in settlements, according to published reports.

The Pope said: 'Every human means for responding to this evil must be implemented.' US bishops have asked the Vatican for permission to streamline procedures for defrocking priests who have molested children.

On Saturday a protester outside the Denver cathedral where the Pope said Mass held up a placard reading: 'Thou shalt not covet altar boys.'

The Pope spoke out strongly against artificial birth control - urging Catholics to use natural family planning methods. According to surveys, most Catholic couples in the US use contraception and feel they are not sinning. He urged them to obey their church's ban on contraception. The Pope also said American society had to do more to stop urban violence.

(Photograph omitted)

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