ROME, NOV. 5, 2001 ( The international community´s struggle against hunger and its commitment to help poor countries handle their foreign debt must not be abandoned in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Pope said.

"Development is the new name of peace," John Paul II said in a message sent to the 31st Conference of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) being held in Rome from Nov. 2-13.

A World Food Summit originally scheduled for this week was postponed until June 10 because of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

In his message to FAO and the 183 delegations of its member-states, the Holy Father said it is critical that, "despite the difficult international situation, the world could have news that next year there will be real progress in the absolutely vital field of food."

"It is not possible that millions of people are undernourished or hungry in the world," the papal message states. "The earth is capable of providing them with what is necessary and, therefore, the reason for the lack of food must be sought elsewhere."

"There has been a lack of equitable management of the goods of creation, with the obvious inequality in the distribution of resources," the Pope continues.

The Pontiff stresses that the right to food is not only proper to men and women, but also to nations. Because of this, "when people are unable to satisfy their fundamental needs because of war, poverty, bad government, poor management or natural catastrophes, the rest have the moral obligation to intervene and come to their aid."

In the battle against hunger, the Bishop of Rome supports "the decision made by the richer nations to allocate a part of the gross national product (GNP) to the development of poor countries," and encourages them "to make every possible effort to reduce the burden of foreign debt."

"There must be perseverance in these efforts, even when urgent needs, at the national or international level, seem to suggest their abandonment," the Pope affirms.

Lastly, the Holy Father said: "Following the terrible events of Sept. 11, extensive discussions have taken place on justice and the urgency to correct injustices."

"Many injustices in the world transform the earth into a desert: The most impressive of these injustices is the hunger suffered by millions of people, with the inevitable repercussions on the problem of peace among nations," the message states.

John Paul II asks: "Didn´t Pope Paul VI say in 1967 that development is the new name of peace?"

"Since then, these words have become ever more real," John Paul II adds. "Development entails numerous aspects, but the first is the decision to ensure that every man, woman and child has access to the food needed."

On this depends not only "´food security´ but also ´world peace,´ at a time when these values are gravely endangered," he concludes.