VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 4, 2002 ( John Paul II renewed his appeal for a "civilization of love and peace" when he focused on a passage from the Book of Isaiah during the weekly general audience.

Commenting on the canticle in Isaiah 2:2-5 -- the "swords into plowshares" passage -- the Pope urged believers to become agents of that authentic peace which humanity has always sought.

The Holy Father was continuing the series of meditations on the Psalms and Old Testament canticles that he began last year.

Today he took a helicopter from his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo to the Vatican and Paul VI Hall, since it was the only way he could receive the more than 6,000 pilgrims.

The Pope recalled Isaiah's vision: "The people let the weapons fall from their hands, which are then gathered to be forged into peaceful instruments of work. The swords are transformed into plowshares, and the spears into pruning hooks."

"Thus arises a horizon of peace, of Shalom, as is said in Hebrew, a word cherished especially by messianic theology," the Holy Father said. "The curtain is finally lowered forever on war and hatred."

The first Christians saw in Christ the fulfillment of this prophecy, he added. They identified in the Church the "'mountain of the temple of the Lord ... erected on the top of the mountains,' from which the Word of the Lord issued, and to which the pagan peoples flowed, in the new era of peace inaugurated by the Gospel," the Pope said.

He recalled St. Justin's comment on this canticle: "We, who before used to kill one another, now no longer fight against our enemies, but so as not to lie and to deceive those who questioned us, we willingly die confessing Christ."

The Holy Father ended by appealing to Christians "to lay down the foundations of that civilization of love and peace in which there will no longer be war, no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.'"