VATICAN CITY, NOV. 25, 2002 ( John Paul II says the rediscovery of the parish, a home to the sacraments, is the key to the laity's ability to resist the secularized culture.

The Pope expressed this conviction Saturday when he met with participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The assembly was held last week in Rome on the topic "It is necessary to keep journeying, starting afresh from Christ, that is, from the Eucharist."

In his address, the Holy Father said, "The parish community is the heart of the liturgical life; it is the privileged place of catechesis and education in the faith."

"The itinerary of initiation and formation for all Catholics takes place in the parish," he stressed. "How critical it is to rediscover the value and importance of the parish, as the place where the contents of the Catholic tradition are transmitted!"

"Many of the baptized, in part because of the impact of strong currents of de-Christianization, seem to have lost contact with this religious legacy," the Holy Father observed. "The faith is often put aside in episodes and fragments of life."

He continued: "A certain relativism tends to nourish discriminatory attitudes in relation to the contents of Catholic doctrine and morality, being accepted or rejected based on subjective or arbitrary preferences. In this way, the faith received is no longer lived as a divine gift, as an extraordinary opportunity of human and Christian growth, as an event of meaning and conversion of life."

"Only a faith that sinks its roots in the sacramental structure of the Church, which drinks from the sources of the Word of God and of Tradition, which is converted into a new life and renewed intelligence of reality, can make the baptized able to resist more effectively the impact of the prevailing secularized culture," the Pope said.

This work of initiation and formation carried out in the parish must culminate in a personal relationship with the sacrament of the Eucharist, the real presence of Jesus Christ, John Paul II explained.

The Eucharist "augments our union with Christ, separates us and preserves us from sin, reinforces the bonds of charity, sustains our efforts through life's pilgrimage, enables us to have a foretaste of the glory to which we are destined," he emphasized.

By participating in the eucharistic celebration, Catholics "hand over their existence -- their feelings and sufferings, conjugal and family life, work and commitments in society -- as a spiritual offering pleasing to the Father, thus consecrating the world to God," the Holy Father continued.

Therefore, the secret to overcome the prevailing secularization is "in always having present this centrality of the Eucharist in formation and in participation in the life of parish and diocesan communities," the Pope concluded. "It is important to begin always from Christ, that is, from the Eucharist, in all the density of its mystery."