VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2002 ( John Paul II condemned demographic policies that resort to mass sterilizations and promotion of abortion and divorce, saying they produce "tragic results" for the family.

The Pope addressed these issues on Saturday when he met with a group of Brazilian bishops from the East 2 Region. The prelates were in Rome for their once-every-five-year visit to the Holy See.

The Holy Father focused on the "fundamental and irreplaceable" role of the family, and continued with the series of addresses on critical topics for the Church.

"Civil laws that favor divorce and threaten life by attempting to introduce abortion officially; birth-control campaigns that, instead of calling for responsible procreation through the natural rhythm of fertility, led to the sterilization of thousands of women, especially in the Northeast [of Brazil], and programmed the use of contraceptive methods, now reveal their most tragic results," he said.

Factors such as the "lack of objective information and geographic uprooting" give origin to "a process of disintegration of the family nucleus in its most essential elements," the Pope stressed.

Other symptoms of this disintegration of the family are "attempts by public opinion and civil legislation to equate the family with mere de facto unions or to recognize as such persons of the same sex," he said.

Given this situation, the Holy Father made three appeals to Catholics.

First, he told the pastors that to fail to proclaim the truth about marriage and the family "would be a grave pastoral omission, which would lead people to error, especially those who have the important responsibility to make decisions for the common good of the nation."

Second, John Paul II called for the commitment of all Catholics, especially married couples, who "must be the first to witness to the grandeur of conjugal and family life," to respond with "a more incisive and constant catechetical and educational action, which will give incentive to the Christian ideal of faithful and indissoluble conjugal communion."

Third, he exhorted "those who are afraid of the exigencies that such fidelity implies": "Be not afraid of the risks! There is no difficult situation that cannot be addressed in an adequate way when a climate of consistent Christian life is cultivated."