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The Pope: Cry Freedom

1 minute read

A chorus of 200,000 serenaded Pope John Paul II, who had just turned 68, with a thundering Happy Birthday last week in the Paraguayan town of Encarnacion. During a later appearance, the impassioned chant “Freedom, freedom, freedom!” greeted the Pontiff. The cry was really meant for Paraguay’s ironfisted dictator, General Alfredo Stroessner, and the Pope quietly echoed it.

During his stay in Paraguay, which capped a twelve-day tour that included Uruguay, Peru and Bolivia, John Paul II expressed veiled displeasure with Stroessner’s rule by criticizing corruption and human rights abuses. Stroessner grudgingly permitted the Pope to meet with the Builders of Society, a group that includes opposition figures. But the government-run newspaper Patria growled with displeasure. “These are not the builders of society,” the paper fumed, “but the destroyers of society.”

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