ASTANA, Kazakhstan, SEPT. 24, 2001 ( During his last public appearance in Kazakhstan today, John Paul II condemned terrorism and expressed the Catholic Church´s respect for believers in Islam.

"Hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God and disfigure the true image of man," said the Holy Father when he met with Kazakh intellectuals in the auditorium of the Palace of Congresses.

At the same time, the Pope told this country of Muslim majority: "I wish to reaffirm the Catholic Church´s respect for Islam, for authentic Islam: the Islam that prays, that is concerned for those in need."

"Recalling the errors of the past, including the most recent past, all believers ought to unite their efforts to ensure that God is never made the hostage of human ambitions," the Pontiff stressed.

Religious liberty exists officially in this Central Asia republic, though religious confessions are prohibited from holding celebrations or public manifestations.

This fact gave John Paul II the opportunity to defend, before representatives of the cultural, artistic and scientific world, and even President Nursultan Nazarbayev himself, "the right of believers to bear witness to their faith."

"Authentic religious practice cannot be reduced to the private sphere, or narrowly restricted to the edges of society," John Paul II asserted.

He also warned Kazakhstan, which abandoned the Soviet system a decade ago, about the danger of "slavish conformity" to Western culture.

"Western 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," the Pope said.

According to the Holy Father, the "culture that produces such models is marked by the fatal attempt to secure the good of humanity by eliminating God, the Supreme Good."

John Paul II added that man has questions about life and death that cannot be asphyxiated.

"Christians know that in Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, a complete answer has been given to the questions dwelling deep in the human heart," the Pope emphasized.

"Of this ´good news,´ which for 2,000 years has been on the lips of countless men and women in every part of the earth, the Pope of Rome comes before you today as a humble and convinced witness, in full respect for the search which other people of good will are engaged in along different paths," he said.

Some of the audience commented that this was the first time that such a clear proclamation of Christ´s message resounded in the highest symbol of Astana´s cultural world.

On Tuesday morning, the Pope will bid farewell to Kazakhstan at Astana´s international airport. A few hours later, he will land in Armenia to commemorate 1,700 years of Christianity in the country and promote the initiative for full unity between Rome and the Armenian Apostolic Church.