VATICAN CITY, JULY 7, 2002 ( Weeks away from World Youth Day in Toronto, John Paul II urged young people to "rediscover the value of chastity and to live interpersonal relations in reciprocal respect and sincere love."

Addressing the faithful gathered today in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled the example of St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902), a girl who was murdered after rebuffing the sexual advances of a young man.

Alessandro Serenelli, a disturbed youth who on several occasions tried to seduce Maria Goretti, stabbed her repeatedly with a knife when she refused his advances. Repentant, and after leading an exemplary life, Serenelli was present at her canonization on June 24, 1950.

"St. Maria Goretti is an example for the new generations, threatened by a mentality of lack of commitment, which finds it hard to understand the importance of values on which it is never licit to descend to compromises," John Paul II explained.

"Although she was poor and lacking in school education, Maria, who was not yet 12 years old, had a strong and mature personality, formed by the religious education she received in the family," the Pope added. "This enabled her not only to defend her own person with heroic chastity, but even to forgive her murderer."

"Her martyrdom reminds us that the human being is not fulfilled by following pleasurable impulses, but by living his life in love and responsibility," the Holy Father emphasized in his address before the midday Angelus.

"I know well how much you, dear young people, are sensitive to these ideals," John Paul II said to those congregated in St. Peter's Square.

"In the hope of meeting you in two weeks in Toronto, today I wish to repeat to you: Do not let the culture of possessions and pleasure lull your consciences!" he concluded. "Be vigilant and alert sentinels, in order to be genuine protagonists of a new humanity."