VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2000 (
In his message for the new year, John Paul II proposes "dialogue between cultures," as the indispensable condition to resolve armed conflicts originating in nationalism and xenophobia.

Not long after the world witnessed three genocides in different continents -- Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and East Timor -- the Pontiff puts pen to paper to offer the Christian proposal to all those areas where blood continues to be spilt.

The motto for this year´s message is "International Year of Dialogue Between Civilizations." "I do not believe that there can be easy or readily applicable solutions to a problem like this," the Holy Father says at the beginning.

He emphasizes the intimate relation between a person´s origin and his cultural vision, a relation on which his sense of homeland is forged. He writes: "It is on the basis of this essential relationship with one´s own ´origins´ on the level of the family, but also of territory, society and culture, that people acquire a sense of their nationality, and culture tends to take on, to a greater or lesser degree in different places, a ´national´ configuration.

"Therefore, patriotic love is a value to be cultivated, but without restrictions of the spirit, loving the whole human family together, and avoiding pathological manifestations that take place when the sense of belonging takes on overtones of self-exaltation and exclusion of diversity, developing in nationalist, racist and xenophobic ways."

In order that "cultural belonging not be turned into narrow-mindedness," the Pontiff suggests "an effective antidote": "the serene knowledge, not conditioned by negative prejudices, of other cultures."

"Cultural differences must be understood from the fundamental perspective of the unity of humankind, primary historical and ontological fact, in light of which it is possible to understand the profound meaning of these very differences," he says. "Indeed, only a view of the whole, both of the elements of unity as well as the differences, makes possible the understanding and interpretation of the full truth of every human culture."

However, the Pope also warns against the very opposite, "the slavish conformity of cultures, or at least of key aspects of them, to cultural models deriving from the Western world," especially those "detached from their Christian origins, these models are often inspired by an approach to life marked by secularism and practical atheism, and by patterns of radical individualism."

"Western cultural models are enticing and alluring because of their remarkable scientific and technical cast but, regrettably, there is growing evidence of their deepening human, spiritual and moral impoverishment," Peter´s successor points out.

Given the existing instances of nationalist, ethnic and xenophobic violence that scourges the world, the "dialogue between cultures emerges as an intrinsic demand of human nature itself, as well as of culture," the Pope insists.

John Paul II concludes: "At the beginning of the third millennium, it is urgent to repropose the way of dialogue to a world marked by so many conflicts and so much violence, at times discouraged and unable to perceive the horizons of hope and peace."