HAVANA (CWN) - President Fidel Castro marked his re-election as president of Communist Cuba on Wednesday with a marathon, seven-hour speech that included a rebuff of Pope John Paul's urging to outlaw abortion.

      During his January visit to the country, the Holy Father called on Cubans to outlaw abortion and put restrictions on divorce to aid the family. Castro said in his speech that while abortion is wrong, he doesn't want to "return to the Middle Ages and invent anew the chastity belt." He said Cubans should limit abortion through their own responsible practices, and the government will not outlaw it.

      Castro also rejected a proposal before the US Congress to allow food and medicine aid to the country through non-governmental, charitable agencies as "humiliating." He added: "We accept with dignity that any country wants to help us. But we are not disposed to play the role of beggars."

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February 27 - March 1, 1998 volume 9, no. 42         DAILY CATHOLIC