VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2001 ( John Paul II today appealed to members of all faiths to reject violence and cooperate in building a better world.

"Religion must never be used as a reason for conflict," the Pope said during his midweek general audience.

"Christians and Muslims, together with believers of every religion, are called to repudiate violence firmly, to build a humanity that loves life, that develops in justice and solidarity," the Holy Father added.

The Pontiff made this appeal when he met with 22,000 pilgrims in St. Peter´s Square, recalling his Sept. 22-27 pilgrimage to Armenia and Kazakhstan.

"The topic of the pastoral visit to Kazakhstan was the commandment of Christ: ´Love one another,´" the Holy Father said. "It was especially significant to carry this message to that country, in which over 100 different ethnic groups coexist and collaborate among themselves to build a better future."

"Who can forget that hundreds of thousands of people were deported to Kazakhstan?" the Bishop of Rome asked. "Who cannot but remember that its steppes were used to test nuclear arms?"

"Kazakhstan, a multiethnic society, has rejected atomic armament and is intent on building a solid and peaceful society," the Pope said with satisfaction.

"´Love one another!´ These words of Christ, in the first place, challenge Christians," he said, recalling his three days in the capital Astana. "I addressed them first to Catholics, exhorting them to communion among themselves and with their Orthodox brothers, who are more numerous.

"Moreover, I encouraged them to collaborate with the Muslims to foster the authentic progress of society."

John Paul II also said the need to overcome divisions among Christians is an exigency posed by the violence in today´s world.

"In a world lacerated by conflicts and violence, it is more necessary than ever that Christians be witnesses of unity and authors of reconciliation and peace," he said.

The Pope said his visit to Armenia was, in part, a chance to promote unity with the Armenian Apostolic Church, which separated from Rome 1,500 years ago over a Christological dispute. A 1996 joint declaration ended that dispute.

John Paul II said the witness of thousands of Christians, Armenian and Catholic, who gave their life for love of Christ, at times amid terrible persecutions, is a call to unity in the one faith.

"Their memory will be honored forever: We must obey Christ, who asks his disciples to be one, with complete docility," the Holy Father said.