VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2002 ( The world of health care must make a clear choice between the "culture of life" and the "culture of death," warns John Paul II.

"The new frontiers of progress of the life sciences, and of the applications that derive from them, have placed enormous power and responsibility in the hands of man," John Paul II said Thursday when addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.

"If the culture of death prevails, if people allow themselves to be conditioned by egotistic and Promethean options in the field of medicine and medical research, it is inevitable that human dignity and life itself are dangerously threatened," he added.

"If, on the contrary, work in this important health sector is characterized by the culture of life, under the guidance of a right conscience, man will find valid answers to his most profound aspirations," the Holy Father said.

Created in 1995, the pontifical council coordinates and stimulates the Church´s work in the health care field, and analyzes initiatives at the international level.

The Pope said the Church has to promote a "new evangelization of pain, which Christ assumes and transfigures in the triumph of the resurrection." The Church has to show the face of the risen Christ with loving service to every person who is sick or suffering, he explained.

"In this connection, a life of prayer and recourse to the sacraments is essential, without which the spiritual way becomes difficult not only for the sick but also for those who care for them," the Pope emphasized.

Today, this objective implies addressing "new and complex problems," which the Holy Father enumerated. He listed "the decreasing number of women religious committed in this area; the complicated ministry of hospital chaplains; the difficulty of organizing at the level of local Churches an adequate and incisive pastoral health program; and the attitude of health care personnel, which is not always in harmony with Christian positions."

In order to answer these issues, the Pope highlighted a fundamental criterion: "to have an attitude of respect for life and the dignity of the human being," without forgetting that cooperation with international health organizations is useful.