VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2001 (
Given the aging of the population of some developed countries, John Paul II believes that "a culture, policy, and social organization favorable to life are urgent."

The Pope made his comments as he met this morning with members of the government of the city of Rome and the region of Latium, to which the Eternal City belongs, to wish them a happy New Year and thank them for their work during the Jubilee Year.

The Holy Father said that in the context of Italy´s demographics, which are similar to those of other European countries, "proposals and measures in favor of maternity and the protection of life from conception to its natural end deserve sincere support."

"A fundamental challenge for our future is at stake here," the Holy Father warned. "I feel the duty to call your attention, first of all, to the important topic of the family and the fundamental role it plays in the growth and formation of new generations, as well as in the development of human relations characterized by love and solidarity."

"The family must be at the center of social policies and must be respected in its own identity, as a stable union between man and woman founded on marriage, which can never be assimilated to other forms of relation," John Paul II stressed.

Given the aging of the population, the Pope said that it is even more important to think of the elderly, "especially in regard to the loneliness that characterizes the life of a good many of them."

Lastly, he appealed to the Roman politicians to do all that is necessary so that the rights of private schools in Italy are recognized, medicine is humanized, and the security of citizens is guaranteed, especially in the outskirts of large cities.