VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2002 ( Discouragement, exhaustion, routine and "spiritual aridity" are a missionary´s greatest risks, warns John Paul II.

The Holy Father addressed the personal challenges faced by missionaries when he met today with superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life particularly dedicated to the missions.

It was the first meeting of its kind, organized by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The five-day event, which ended today, drew 240 superiors general of religious families.

"The mission is certainly exacting and, in face of problems, annoyances, misunderstandings, [and] the decrease of missionary vocations consecrated for life, the temptation to discouragement and exhaustion might appear," the Pope told the superiors.

"You could be contaminated by the danger of daily routine and a certain spiritual aridity," he added.

To be able to avoid these risks, missionaries were advised to seek "in profound union with God the vigor to overcome every obstacle."

"The Lord is always with us, in moments of spiritual intensity and ´harvesting of fruits,´ as well as in moments of exhaustion and the pain of ´sowing,´" the Pope said.

The Holy Father reminded the superiors that the mission is not something optional for the consecrated. "It could be said that the missionary character is part of the heart itself of every form of consecrated life," he concluded.