VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2002 ( John Paul II encouraged the use of information technology at the service of Christian thought, when he received in audience the group that digitalized and indexed the works of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The Pontiff said this effort will help new generations discover the timeliness of this Dominican thinker (1221-1274), regarded as one of history´s greatest philosophers and theologians.

The Holy Father today addressed the members of the Association for the Computerization of Lexicological Hermeneutical Analyses (CAEL), which sponsored the production of the "Index Tomisticus," a complete glossary of the linguistic terms (some 9 million words) taken from St. Thomas´ works.

The work, which would fill 56 encyclopedic volumes, has been compacted into a CD-Rom.

Among the CAEL members who attended the papal audience were Michel Camdessus, former director of the International Monetary Fund; Antonio Fazio, director of the Central Bank of Italy; and Giulio Andreotti, an Italian statesman; as well as Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Genoa.

The completion of the "Index Tomisticus," as the Pope acknowledged, was due to the tireless work of Jesuit Father Roberto Busa, a pioneer in the computerization of human sciences.

The Holy Father encouraged the new enterprise that Father Busa will now begin, with the help of an international team of youths, assisted by university professors. This new endeavor is the elaboration of the "Bicultural Thomistic Lexicon," which over a few decades should translate all the terms used by St. Thomas into modern words.

John Paul II described the work of the Summa Theologiae´s author as an "authentic encyclopedia of his time, summary of 40 centuries of Mediterranean culture: Jewish, Greek, Latin, Arab and Christian."

"St. Thomas marked an age with his genius and continues to be a luminous figure for research and love of truth, which dominate all his philosophical and theological" work, the Pope said.