VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2002 ( The Romanian Parliament responded positively to John Paul II´s appeal that it return to the Catholic Church the property confiscated by the Communist regime.

The Holy Father made his appeal Saturday when he received Mihail Dobre, 41, Bucharest´s new ambassador to the Vatican.

The hour has arrived, the Pontiff said, for civil entities to restore "according to criteria of justice, the ecclesiastical patrimony confiscated, in order to allow the Catholic Church to count on this property for the fulfillment of its mission."

"It must never be forgotten that the more attempts are made to heal the wounds of the past, which constitute potential reasons for confrontation, the more Christians are helped to dedicate their energies to the good of the whole society," the Pope added.

Some of the Catholic Church´s properties (especially those of the Eastern-rite Catholics) were removed by force and given to the Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox and Catholic Churches have set up a commission to overcome the problems related to the ownership of those buildings.

"Although the required prudence must be observed, it is necessary that this special commission be aware of the real urgent need of the Catholic Church to be able to count on those sacred buildings," the Pontiff said.

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in Bucharest today that the Romanian Parliament would approve a draft law in the autumn to restore to the Orthodox and Catholic Churches the properties that were confiscated by the Communist regime.

"It is a question of principles, not of favoring one Church over another," Nastase stressed.

Last March, Eastern-rite Catholics told the Pope about the "abuses" perpetrated against them by some Orthodox faithful, who refused to return the places of worship.

The Eastern-rite Catholic Church was outlawed in 1948, and its places of worship were confiscated and handed over to the Orthodox. Hundreds of priests died in prison, after refusing to enter the Orthodox Church.

To a lesser extent, the Communists also expropriated properties belonging to the Orthodox and Latin-rite Catholic Churches.