KIELCE, Poland -- In a country that is 90 percent Roman Catholic, where the pope can still draw more than half a million people to an outdoor mass, abortion is becoming as divisive an issue as in the United States.
As he traveled across Poland yesterday, Pope John Paul II spoke out for the first time on this trip against abortion, using some of his most vivid language and throwing himself into a debate that has damaged the church's popularity here. In addition, the pope asked the crowd in Kielce to pray for Jews who were killed by Poles here in June 1946. The pope plans to meet Sunday with leaders of the few thousand Jews remaining from a prewar Jewish population of 3.5 million.
The pope is expected to deliver a major attack on abortion today.
"Each and every child is a gift from God," the pope said yesterday at a mass dedicated to the importance of the family. "That gift is always priceless even if it is sometimes difficult to accept. First, the attitude to the newly conceived child must change. He is never an intruder or an aggressor, even if one assumes that he has arrived unexpectedly."
Departing from his text, the pope spoke passionately, and then angrily, about what he called the destruction of family life in Poland, singling out alcoholism and divorce.
Like American Catholics, many Poles seem to have decided that they can be good Catholics and still disobey the church on abortion. A recent poll showed 71 percent oppose church teachings on abortion, adultery and contraception.