VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2001 ( Interior conversion to God is the only "holy war" for Christians, a Capuchin friar said today in a homily delivered in the presence of John Paul II.

As he does every Friday during Advent, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Papal Household preacher, directed a meditation for the Pope and his Roman Curia aides in preparation for Christmas.

On this occasion, the meditation coincided with the day of fast for an end to terrorism and wars.

The Holy Father requested that a special Liturgy of the Word be celebrated early this morning in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Papal Rooms. The prayer meeting culminated with Father Cantalamessa´s sermon.

The Capuchin´s theme, on this second Friday of Advent, was inspired by the words of the prophet Joel: "Return to me with fasting, weeping and mourning."

Father Cantalamessa began by saying that believers of other Christian denominations and even nonbelievers responded to the papal appeal for a fast today, for humanitarian reasons.

"This already is something good," he said. "It is a response to the call the Church makes ever more frequently beyond its confines to men of good will."

For believers the fast means much more. It "is a call to conversion, to the inner struggle with oneself to return to God. This is the only holy war compatible with the spirit of the Gospel," Father Cantalamessa stressed.

According to the papal preacher, fasting should take the form of "sobriety."

"New forms of fasting should be invented today, in addition to that of food: fasting from words, from thoughts and from images," he suggested.

Moreover, fasting should have "a permanent ascetic and prophetic value," being translated into "solidarity with the millions of people for whom bread and water would be a succulent meal," the Capuchin continued.

"Above all, fasting is a sign of human and Christian solidarity, because it inspires man to live voluntarily what millions of people are compelled to live out of necessity," the priest emphasized.

Lastly, with the Gospel in hand, Father Cantalamessa exhorted his listeners not to be discouraged by prayers that seem to go unanswered.

"One day we will discover that no prayer of intercession, expressed with faith and humility, was in vain," he said. "We must not be concerned to verify if there has been an answer; this task must be left to God."

"Much less will today´s prayer go unheard, which is raised to God for peace by the whole Church, and is coupled with fasting," he said. "It is valid, above all, for the demon of war and terrorism.

"These types of demons are only expelled through prayer and fasting, as Jesus said on one occasion when delivering one possessed."