VATICAN CITY, MARCH 19, 2003 ( The human being must be the "subject and protagonist" of work, John Paul II said, manifesting his closeness to the unemployed and those suffering injustices in the work world.

The Pope highlighted the "spirituality of work" when he met today with several thousand pilgrims in Paul VI Hall for the general audience on the solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of Mary.

The remembrance of the "patron of workers" gave the Pontiff the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of work, to which he dedicated his 1981 encyclical, "Laborem Exercens."

"Man is the subject and protagonist of work and, in the light of this truth, one can easily perceive the fundamental connection that exists between the person, work and society," John Paul II said.

Quoting the Second Vatican Council constitution "Gaudium et Spes," the Pope explained that human activity, including work, "derives from man and is ordered to man."

"According to the design and will of God, it must serve the real good of humanity and allow man, as an individual and as a member of society, to cultivate and carry out his integral vocation," he said.

In order to fulfill this task, the Pope proposed the cultivation of a "true spirituality of work ... anchored with solid roots in the 'Gospel of work.'" At the same time, he asked believers "to proclaim and witness to the Christian meaning of work in their different occupational activities."

Lastly, the Holy Father entrusted to St. Joseph's intercession "young people who are preparing for a future profession, the unemployed, and those who suffer the hardship of occupational shortages, families, and the entire world of work with the expectations and challenges, the problems and prospects that characterize it."