Havana, Aug. 7--(AP) A Roman Catholic bishop said Wednesday that young Cubans were pressured to stay in Canada during Pope John Paul II's visit there last month. "Never before has a church delegation been wrapped up in something similar," said Bishop Carlos Baladron, president of the youth commission of Cuba's Conference of Catholic Bishops. "From our first days in Canada there were notable pressures by some people living there ... exhorting the Cubans not to return to their country," Baladron said in a statement sent to international news organizations.

Of 200 people who traveled to Canada with the Cuban church delegation, 23 stayed behind, the bishop said. Baladron, bishop from Cuba's eastern province of Guantanamo, headed the delegation. The prelate said several dozen young people from other countries also stayed behind in Canada during the World Youth Day encounter with the pontiff in Toronto.

Baladron said news coverage of the Cubans' defection "indicates that a religious event such as this ... can be taken advantage of by those with determined politic interests."

The Cuban delegation left for Canada on July 18 and returned Aug. 2. It was the first time that the communist government had authorized such a large group to travel abroad for a Roman Catholic gathering.

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