VATICAN CITY, MARCH 19, 2002 ( Proclamation of the Gospel message is more difficult today because of the cultural environment, says John Paul II.

The Holy Father expressed his concern when he met recently with the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

"The transmission of the evangelical message is particularly arduous in today´s world, especially because our contemporaries are submerged in cultural ambiences that are often ignorant of any spiritual or inner dimension, in situations where essentially materialistic aspects prevail," the Pope said Saturday.

"Without a doubt, it must be said that in no other period of history [was there such] a rupture in the process of the transmission of moral and religious values between generations, which leads to a kind of heterogeneity between the Church and the contemporary world," the Pontiff added.

According to the Holy Father, the greatest challenge in this connection falls on families and school institutions, "which have the onerous task to transmit human, moral and spiritual values to young generations, which will allow them to be men and women who are concerned to lead an upright personal life and to commit themselves to social life."

This challenge entails a very specific objective: to elaborate educational systems based on a "serious" anthropology capable of "giving reasons about who man is and, especially, on what makes him live," he said.

"From the moment that philosophy meets Christ in the Gospel it can really begin to spread to all nations," the Pope said, giving examples from history such as the time of St. Augustine and the Christian philosophers of the 20th century.

In this context, John Paul II said, the contribution of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which he created 20 years ago, is crucial.

This council´s responsibility is "to offer its contribution to bishops, Catholic communities and all institutions that request it, so that Christians will have the adequate means to witness their faith and hope in a consistent and responsible way," the Pope stressed.

This contribution is decisive in order that "all men of good will may commit themselves to the construction of a society in which the entire being of every person is promoted," the Pope continued. "The future of man and of cultures, the proclamation of the Gospel, and the life of the Church, depend on it."