Religion: Pulling in the Welcome Mat

Protests and slim turnouts mar John Paul's Dutch visit

When Pope John Paul II takes to the road, crowds are almost always huge and the mood celebratory. The Pontiff's magical spell, however, was abruptly snapped in the Netherlands last week during his 26th foreign journey. The Dutch, with 5.6 million Roman Catholics among 14.5 million citizens, accorded John Paul a remarkably unfriendly reception. There were street riots and also barbed comments from his hosts.

More significant, however, was the dismally low attendance at event after event, as though some pervasive national ennui had set in. Said one Vatican official, after observing the paltry crowd at an Amersfoort youth rally: "I...

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