VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2002 ( At the 375th anniversary of the foundation of the Urban University, John Paul II appealed to Christians to be "people of dialogue" in the face of the so-called clash of civilizations.

The Pope made his appeal today when meeting with representatives of the pontifical university, a center of formation in Rome for priests, seminarians, religious and laity, most of whom are from mission countries.

"Without failing to affirm the force of the evangelical message, in today's lacerated world it is an important task for Christians to be people of dialogue in order to resist that clash of civilizations that at times seems inevitable," the Holy Father said.

"Violence, terrorism, war do no more than build new walls between peoples," he said. Because of this, he suggested that the students make the Urban University a "gymnasium of universality, in which one must be able to breathe that sense of profound communion that characterized the early community," the Pope added.

With an eye to the future, the Holy Father proposed that the Urban University be distinguished "among the other universities in Rome precisely for its special attention to peoples' cultures and to the great world religions, beginning with Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism."

In this endeavor, the Pope clarified that it is necessary "to consider attentively the problem of interreligious dialogue in its theological, Christological and ecclesiological implications."

Lastly, the Holy Father appealed to the Urban University to pay special attention "to the integral formation of its students."

"The Church of the third millennium needs priests, religious and laity who are holy and educated. This is not a new program," he said. "The program already exists: It is the same as always, taken up in the Gospel and the living Tradition. In the last analysis, it is centered on Christ himself, who must be known, loved, imitated, to live the Trinitarian life in him and with him in order to transform history."

The thousands of students who attend the Urban University come from 110 countries. The university has 90 affiliated institutes in more than 40 countries.