Pope John Paul II interrupted his official visit to Belgium on Saturday to pray at the tomb of King Baudouin, the late monarch who refused to sign a law liberalizing abortion.
John Paul's unscheduled trip to the royal estate on the outskirts of Brussels underscored his support for world leaders who share his moral views.Officially, the pope was in Belgium to beatify a 19th century Belgian missionary, Father Damien De Veuster, who worked and died among the lepers of Hawaii. The ceremony was scheduled for Sunday outside the city's basilica.
The pope arrived Saturday afternoon at Melsbroek airport outside Brussels and was greeted by King Albert II and Queen Paola. Recalling Baudouin, Albert's older brother, the pope said: "I wish to pay homage to his memory."
King Baudouin died in 1993. His widow, Fabiola, joined the pope at the crypt at Laken, just outside Brussels. Vatican sources said the pope wanted to pay tribute to the king for his strong position against the abortion law.
The king's refusal to sign the law in 1990 won him high praise from the Vatican, which hailed the decision as a "noble and courageous choice" dictated by his "very strong moral conscience."
Nonetheless, the king's opposition didn't stop the law from passing.