VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2001 ( John Paul II today presented fasting and prayer as "weapons" to overcome the hatred and violence that darken the world scene.

"Peace and violence sprout in man´s heart, over which only God has power," the Pope said. "Convinced of this, believers have always adopted against the gravest dangers, the weapons of fasting and prayer, coupled with concrete works of charity."

The Pontiff expressed these thoughts at midday from the window of his study when he greeted thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square to pray the Angelus.

"In the present complex international situation, humanity is called to mobilize its best energies, so that love will prevail over hatred, peace over war, truth over falsehood, forgiveness over revenge," he said.

Given the existing situation, the Holy Father has invited Catholics worldwide to observe a day of fast and prayer this Friday "to implore God for a stable peace, founded on justice."

Pleased that the initiative has received the support of Jews and Muslims and others, he explained that the believer, by fasting, commits himself to conversion of heart and to actions that promote "greater justice toward God and one´s neighbor."

"By fasting, one acknowledges with trusting humility that authentic personal and social renewal can only come from God, on whom we all depend totally," John Paul II added. "Moreover, beyond all pietism and deceptive assistance, fasting also makes possible the sharing of daily bread with those who are deprived."

The Holy Father said he chose the date of the fast to coincide with the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.

He hopes that "the common attitude of religious penance will increase reciprocal understanding between Christians and Muslims, called more than ever at the present time to be, together, builders of justice and peace."