VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2001 (
.- War, violence, injustice, and moral degradation do not have the last word. John Paul II is convinced that believers in the Gospel can and must build a "civilization worthy of the human person."

The Holy Father insisted on this point today, during the Wednesday general audience, when he met with thousands of pilgrims from around the world, and addressed the crucial challenge facing mankind: the need for commitment to a worthy future for man.

The Pope´s address was graphic. He began by referring to the scene in the Apocalypse that represents the "earth´s desolate moors [where] riders gallop who hold up the crown of triumphant power, the sword of violence, the balance of poverty and hunger, and the sharp scythe of death."

"In face of the tragedies of history and rampant immorality," the Pontiff said, the question the prophet Jeremiah addressed to God immediately comes to mind: "Why does the way of the wicked prosper?"

The Bishop of Rome answered this question by quoting St. Irenaeus, one of his favorite Fathers of the Church, who explained that the problem is not found in God but in man´s freedom, who is able to rebel against the divine plan: "Nor does the light fail because of those who have blinded themselves; but while it remains the same as ever, those who are blinded are involved in darkness through their own fault. The light does never enslave any one by necessity, nor, again, does God exercise compulsion upon any one unwilling to accept the exercise of his will," the bishop of Lyon said, who was martyred around the year 200.

Therefore, a continuous effort of conversion is necessary, which rectifies the route of humanity, so that it will freely choose to follow "God´s design," namely, his plan of peace and love, of truth and justice."

The great enemy, the Holy Father pointed out, is "fear of the future," which often grips young generations, leading them in reaction to indifference, to resignation in addressing commitments in life, to brutalization of themselves in drugs, violence, and apathy." At present, fear is such that it obfuscates "the joy that should arise from the birth of every baby," he said.

After referring to the Apostle John´s invitation to "defeat evil and the Evil One, in virtue of the efficacious presence of the heavenly Father," the Pope stressed that to "point out hope is a fundamental duty of the Church."

John Paul II concluded the audience by quoting from his address at the United Nations in New York in 1995: "We must not have fear of the future. We have in us the capacity for wisdom and virtue. With such gifts, and with the help of God´s grace, we can construct in the century that is about to arrive and for the next millennium a civilization worthy of the human person, a real culture of liberty. We can and we must do so! And, in doing so, we will realize that the tears of this century have prepared the ground for a new springtime of the human spirit."