VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2002 ( John Paul II called for prayers for peace in the world, especially the Holy Land, during the month of May.

"Given the international situation, where so many needs and problems arise and, in particular, in face of the endless drama of the Holy Land, we must take confident recourse to the maternal intercession of the Virgin," the Pope said today.

We "may be sure that she can sustain the efforts of the one who seeks peace with sincerity and determination," the Holy Father told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square to pray the Regina Caeli.

Speaking from the window of his study, John Paul II added, "No one more than she, the Queen of Peace, constantly watches over this exhausting way of humanity."

"May an uninterrupted and common prayer be raised to heaven from every part of the world during the month of May, so that at last initiatives for easing tension and for dialogue will be affirmed in the Land of Christ, and in every other place of the planet, marked by violence and pain," the Holy Father exhorted.

John Paul II has taken advantage of his recent Sunday public meetings with pilgrims to ask for greater commitment to peace and prayers for an end to Middle East violence.

In recent days, his appeals have been especially intense for the Franciscan friars and nuns in Bethlehem´s Basilica of the Nativity. The basilica has been under siege by the Israeli army since April 2, when more than 200 Palestinians, many of them armed, invaded the church.

The Holy Father reminded pilgrims that "next Wednesday, the month of May begins, consecrated to Mary."

"Let us pray the holy rosary, if possible every day, either on our own or in community," he said. "The rosary is a simple prayer, but profound and very effective, to implore graces for families, communities and the whole world."