CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 26, 2001 ( Racism, aggressive nationalism and ethnic violence are attacks against the human family and serious offenses against God, John Paul II said.

The Pope made this statement today when he met with several thousand pilgrims in the courtyard of the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo to pray the midday Angelus. The Pope urged the international community to mobilize in face of the U.N. World Conference Against Racial Discrimination, which will be held in Durban, South Africa, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7.

"In that venue the Church will also vigorously raise her voice to safeguard the fundamental rights of man, rooted in his dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God," the Bishop of Rome promised.

"In the last decades, characterized by the development of globalization and marked by the worrying resurgence of aggressive nationalism, ethnic violence and widespread phenomena of racial discrimination, human dignity has often been seriously threatened," the Holy Father added.

Given the above, every "upright conscience cannot but decisively condemn any racism no matter in what heart or place it is found," the Pope continued.

"Unfortunately, it emerges in ever new and unexpected ways, offending and degrading the human family," John Paul II said. "Racism is a sin that constitutes a serious offense against God."

The Holy Father requested the international community to oppose racism with "the culture of reciprocal acceptance, recognizing in every man and woman a brother or sister with whom we walk in solidarity and peace."

"The Church intends to continue with her efforts in this area, and requests all believers to make their own responsible contribution of conversion of heart, sensitization and formation," the Pope concluded. "In order to achieve this, in the first place, prayer is necessary."

To this end, he announced that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has prepared a new edition of the document published at his request in 1988, entitled "The Church in Face of Racism: For a More Fraternal Society."