The Pope evaluated the state of the world from a Gospel perspective when he received the 172 ambassadors of countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
Among the main issues he cited during his traditional New Year meeting were violence in the Holy Land and social difficulties in Latin America.
Representatives of the United States, Iraq, Russia, the Republic of Georgia, Cuba, Sudan, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization were among those who heard the Holy Father today.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, John Paul II addressed the questions of the "legitimate fight against terrorism," which "has once again let the sound of arms be heard."
"Barbarous aggression and killings" oblige one to keep in mind "not only the question of legitimate defense but also issues such as the most effective means of eradicating terrorism," he said.
These issues include "the search for the factors underlying such acts, and the measures to be taken to bring about a process of ´healing´ in order to overcome fear and to avoid evil being added to evil, violence to violence."
The Holy Father then focused on Latin America. He lamented that "the persistence of social inequalities, drug trafficking, corruption and armed violence can endanger the foundations of democracy and discredit the political class."
Proof of the above is the latest crisis in Argentina, which demonstrates "that political and economic activity at the national and international levels must always be inspired by the pursuit of the authentic good of individuals and peoples," he said.
John Paul II also referred to the violence in the Holy Land, and highlighted the principles he has formulated on the conflict during his 23-year pontificate. "No one can remain indifferent to the injustice of which the Palestinian people have been victims for more than 50 years," he said. "No one can contest the right of the Israeli people to live in security."
"One against the other, neither Israelis nor Palestinians can win the war, but together they can win peace," the Pontiff said. "Nor is the logic of the law of retaliation capable any longer of leading to paths of peace."
John Paul II then mentioned Africa, with its "health emergencies" and 17 conflicts "which are decimating its peoples."
"In such a situation, the establishment of an African Union is, in itself, good news," the Holy Father said. "This organization should help to develop common principles capable of uniting all the member states, with a view to facing major challenges, such as the prevention of conflicts, education and the fight against poverty."
The Holy Father concluded by appealing to diplomats and their governments not to be "overwhelmed by the distress of the present time."
John Paul II then proceeded to list the eight most important challenges he believes the world must face now:
--the defense of the sacredness of human life in all circumstances, especially in relation to the challenges posed by genetic manipulation;
--the promotion of the family, the basic unit of society;
--the elimination of poverty, through efforts to promote development, the reduction of debt, and the opening up of international trade;
--respect for human rights in all situations, with special concern for the most vulnerable: children, women and refugees;
--disarmament, the reduction of arms sales to poor countries, and the consolidation of peace after the end of conflicts;
--the fight against the major diseases, and access by the poor to basic care and medicines;
--the protection of the environment and the prevention of natural disasters;
--the rigorous application of international law and conventions.