Gniezno, Poland; 3 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Pope John Paul, meeting today with presidents from seven Central and Eastern European nations, called on the continent's organizations to admit all states wishing to join. The pope did not mention specific bodies, but many of the presidents come from nations pressing for entry into the European Union and NATO.
At the meeting in the western Polish town of Gniezno, the Pope said that "no nation, not even the poorest, should be excluded."
Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas later told a news conference the fact that seven heads of state met the Pope showed they are working for peace and cooperation in Europe. The other six presidents attending were from Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Earlier today at a mass attended by the presidents and a crowd of some 250,000, the pope warned that the Iron Curtain that collapsed with the fall of communism has been replaced by what he called a new "invisible wall" of selfishness and prejudice.
He said that years of fighting in the former Yugoslavia and this year's crisis in Albania showed an increased insensitivity to the value of human life.
John Paul said "even the undeniable achievements of recent years in the economic, political, and social fields do not hide the fact that this wall exists." He said a "new openness is needed" for Europe to achieve what he called an "authentic unity."
The mass was in honor of St. Adelbart, a bishop and missionary martyred some 1,000 years ago. Adelbart was known for preaching European unity.
The Pope is on the fourth day of an 11-day trip to his homeland.