VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2002 ( John Paul II renewed his appeal to the faithful to regard the praying of the rosary as an opportunity to contemplate the face of Christ.

The Pope reminded the faithful gathered today in St. Peter's Square that he has proclaimed this month through October 2003 the "Year of the Rosary."

"The most important reason for proposing again the practice of the rosary is the fact that it constitutes the valid means to foster among the faithful that commitment to contemplation of the face of Christ, for which I appealed following the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000," the Holy Father said before leading pilgrims in praying the midday Angelus.

"The Virgin Mary is the unsurpassable model of Christian contemplation," the Pope explained, recalling the main themes of his latest apostolic letter, "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary).

"From Jesus' conception until his resurrection and ascension into heaven, his Mother kept the gaze of her immaculate heart fixed on her divine Son: a wondrous, penetrating, sorrowful and radiant gaze," he continued.

"It is this Marian look, full of faith and love, that the individual Christian and the ecclesial community make their own when they recite the rosary," John Paul II said.

This is why the Pope suggested the addition of a fourth cycle of mysteries to the rosary: the mysteries of light, which deal with Christ's public life.

"As every genuine prayer, the rosary does not remove us from reality, but helps to live the latter interiorly united to Christ, giving witness to the love of God," the Holy Father said.

John Paul II also reminded the faithful, as he did in the apostolic letter, that peace and the family are the two primary intentions in praying the rosary.

In particular, the Pope appealed for prayers for "the Russian people, who in these last days have suffered so much" during the hostage siege in a Moscow theater. The siege ended Saturday after a raid by Russian special forces. Fifty captors died, along with 117 hostages.

"While we pray for the victims of the recent painful ordeal, let us pray to the holy Virgin so that such events will not be repeated," the Pope concluded.