VATICAN CITY, NOV. 26, 2002 ( The Church can contribute to political discourse in the way it applies its social doctrine to public questions, says John Paul II.

The Pope addressed this point today when he met with a group of bishops from Brazil, a country which he said has been marked by a great paradox: It is an economic power in which "the great mass of Brazilians lives in a state of poverty."

Given this situation, the Holy Father said, the Church in no way wishes "to usurp tasks and prerogatives of the political power. But it knows that it must also offer to politics its specific contribution of inspiration and direction on the great moral values."

"The imperative distinction between Church and public powers must not let one forget that one as well as the other are directed to man; and the Church, expert in humanity, cannot give up inspiring political activities to direct them to the common good of society," the Pope told the bishops of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, during their every-five-year visit to the Vatican.

This contribution of the Church to politics is understood as the "social doctrine of the Church," which he described as "that ensemble of principles and criteria that, as the fruit of Revelation and historical experience, were decanted to facilitate the formation of the Christian conscience and the implementation of justice in human coexistence."

John Paul II proceeded to review the "historic deficit of social development" that Brazil has experienced. He said that "besides insufficient measures of social protection and of redistribution of income, what really might have been missing has been an ethical conception of social life."

"The implementation of long-term plans and measures to correct the existing imbalances can never do without the commitment of institutional and personal solidarity of all Brazilians," the Holy Father said. "To this objective, Catholics, who constitute the majority of the Brazilian population, can make a fundamental contribution."

"A vision of the economy and the social problems, which begins from the social doctrine of the Church, leads us to consider things always from the point of view of the dignity of the human being which transcends the simple games of economics," he said.

"In order to achieve social justice," the Pope added, "much more is necessary than the simple application of ideological outlines produced by the struggle of the classes, such as for example the invasion of lands -- which I reproached during my pastoral visit in 1991 -- and of public and private buildings."

He also warned against "the adoption of extreme technical measures which could have much more serious consequences than injustice ... , such as in the case of not fulfilling international commitments."

To promote justice, the Pope asked the Brazilian bishops "to stimulate all the potential and wealth of the people of God, especially the laity, so that to the extent possible, authentic justice and solidarity will reign in Brazil, as the fruit of a consistent Christian life."

"We must work incessantly for the formation of politicians, of all Brazilians, so that they may have some decision-making power, great or small, and in general, of all members of society, so that they may assume their own responsibilities fully and know how to offer a human and unified face to economics," he added.

"It is necessary," the Pope concluded, "to instill in the political and business echelons an authentic spirit of truthfulness and integrity."