From the Vatican Information Service

VATICAN CITY, FEB 4, 2000 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from Pope John Paul II to the participants in yesterday's 50th National Prayer Breakfast organized by the Congress of the United States. He encouraged the religious and civil leaders attending this annual event in Washington, D.C. to "build a civilization of love" and to defend and "cherish every human life."

   The seven-page Message, dated January 29 and written in English, was delivered by the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.

   The Pope said that the beginning of a new millennium, "when we are convinced that humanity is at a crossroads, ... is a time to
reaffirm our belief that the God who created the universe and fashioned human beings in His own image and likeness continues to guide and sustain human history."

   He highlighted the "public dimension" of faith, saying that "the deeper understanding of the truth about human nature" that we receive from faith "naturally inspires efforts to build a better and more humane world." And he emphasized that the 20th century shows "the immense suffering (that) results when economic and political systems do not respect the full truth about man, his spiritual nature and his quest for the transcendent."

   Building "a world more worthy of the human person," said the Holy Father, "also calls for that sense of moral responsibility which flows from commitment to truth. ... And such a moral responsibility, by its very nature, cannot be reduced to a purely private matter."

   He underlined that the body politic has been "entrusted" with "a particular moral authority." Politicians are not, the Pope
stressed, "mere brokers of power in a political process."

   Pope John Paul said that America's "heritage of commitment to freedom and equality under the law ... became synonymous with freedom itself." Expressing gratitude for what America did in "the darkest days of the 20th century," he asked if America will "continue to inspire people to build a truly better world" or will it offer the world "a pseudo-freedom, ... detached from  moral norms?"

   "These questions pose themselves in a particularly sharp way when we confront the urgent issue of protecting every human being's inalienable right to life from conception until natural  death: This is the great civil rights issue of our time and the world looks to the United States for leadership in cherishing every human life and in providing legal protection for all members of the human community, but especially those who are weakest and most vulnerable."

   There must be, he went on, "an objective moral order which everyone must respect." An individual cannot "supply his or her own truth and ethic of life."

   The Holy Father urged "Christians in the public area ... to promote a new political culture of service, based on the vision of life and civilization ... that has nourished (Americans') optimism, their hope, their willingness to be generous in the service of others."

   Build a civilization of love, John Paul II exhorted. "Love, as the Scriptures say, casts out fear: fear of the future, fear of the
other, fear that there is not enough room at the banquet of life for the least of our brothers and sisters. ... This is my prayer for you: ... that you be builders of a civilization of love."