VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2003 ( The growth of sects is due to the lack of religious formation among the baptized, and is a challenge to ecclesial communities to renew their style of welcome, says John Paul II.

Meeting today with a group of bishops from southern Brazil on their quinquennial visit to Rome, the Pope referred to the worldwide "religious revival," which is "not lacking in ambiguity but which contains ferment and stimulation that must not be ignored."

He asked the Brazilian bishops if the growth of sects in their country is not "a concrete sign of an unsatisfied aspiration to the supernatural."

"Is it not for you, pastors, a real challenge to renew the style of welcome within ecclesial communities and revitalize the stimulus to a new and courageous evangelization, which will develop appropriate forms of catechesis, especially for adults?" the Holy Father asked.

"You know well that, at the base of this diffusion there a great lack of religious formation with a consequent indecision about the need for faith in Christ and adherence to the Church he instituted," John Paul II continued.

"There is a tendency to represent religions and various spiritual experiences as leveled down to a minimum common denominator, so that they seem almost equivalent, with the result that every person feels free to pursue indifferently one of the many paths proposed for salvation," he added.

Because of this, one can understand "the urgency today to support the faith of Christians, giving them the possibility of a continuous religious formation, to go ever deeper in their personal relation with Christ."

Referring to the country's eclectic culture, John Paul II said this raises "the delicate question of inculturation, especially in liturgical rites, terminology and the musical and bodily expressions typical of the Afro-Brazilian culture."

Whether inculturation involves vestments, songs, language, ceremonies or liturgical objects, there must be a "rigorous application of a serious and profound discernment about its compatibility with the truth revealed by Jesus Christ," the Holy Father stressed.

Authentic Catholic liturgy must not be transformed by or confused with "the pantheon of spirit and divinities of African cults," he insisted.

"The Church views these cults with interest but considers harmful the concrete relativism of a common practice of both [rites] or of a mixture between them, as if they had the same value, and [sees it] a danger to the identity of the Catholic faith," the Pope concluded.