From ........... Associated Press

December 7, 1996

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Keeping up his promotion of periodic sexual abstinence as a way to plan families, Pope John Paul II said Saturday that counseling centers and parishes should have experts in the method available.

The method, called natural family planning by the church and popularly known as "rhythm," is the only way permitted by the Vatican for married couples to space out their children's births. Followers use scientific knowledge to help determine a woman's fertile period and then abstain from sex during that time if they don't want children then.

"By now, the moment is ripe in which every parish and every structure counseling or assisting families and in the defense of life can make available personnel capable of educating married couples in the use of natural methods," the pope said.

He was addressing participants in a course to prepare teachers of the method. The course was being run by Rome's Catholic medical school at Gemelli Polyclinic, where the pontiff has been hospitalized several times for surgery.

Just a month ago, the pope, in another speech, urged doctors to pay more attention to the Church's sanctioned method of family planning, and he denounced contraceptives as a form of "hedonism."