VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2001 ( A week after the terrorist attacks on the United States, John Paul II reflected on God´s presence as the hope capable of illuminating the most tragic darkness.

"It is a dark night, in which voracious wild beasts are perceived in the surroundings," the Pope said at the start of his general audience today. His words were inspired by Psalm 56 [57].

"The man of prayer is waiting for the coming of dawn, so that the light will dispel the darkness and fear," he said.

Addressing thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter´s Square, the Holy Father continued his series of meditations on the Psalms. On this occasion, the biblical song seemed to have special relevance to the world´s tense situation.

The Psalm describes the enemy with evocative metaphors, appearing first as a pride of lions poised to attack. Then the image is transformed into a symbol of war, depicted by spears, arrows and swords. Finally, the believer feels he is being assaulted by a death squadron.

Yet, fear is soon dispelled by God´s intervention, who answers the prayers of the one besieged, making the assailants "stumble in their own evil plans."

So hope arises; fear is transformed into the "song of awakening to Easter light," which for the Christian is summarized in Easter joy, "removing the fear of death and opening the horizon of heavenly glory."

John Paul II also addressed the many English-speaking pilgrims in their own tongue, asking them to "pray in these days that Almighty God will guide the minds and hearts of world leaders so that the ways of justice and peace may prevail."