CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2003 ( Europe's crisis of values became the topic of many of John Paul II's addresses this summer.

He focused on the topic during the last six public addresses on Sundays to pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence here to pray the Angelus.

"It cannot be denied that, in these our times, Europe is going through a crisis of values, and it is important that it recover its true identity," the Pope said on Sunday when commenting on the apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa." That document gathered the conclusions of the 1999 Synod of Bishops of Europe.

"The process of enlargement of the European Union to include other countries cannot refer only to geographical and economic aspects, but must be translated in a renewed agreement of values to be expressed in law and in life," the Holy Father said.

For the Pope, Europe is not just "a geographic place," but, rather, "predominantly a cultural and historical concept" to which the Christian faith has given its form, and whose fundamental values have inspired "the democratic ideal and human rights of European modernity."

Beyond the lack of mention of the role of Christianity in the future European Constitution, which is in its final phase of redaction, what worries the Pontiff is the progressive secularization of the Continent in the form of "agnosticism and practical atheism" [see Angelus of July 27].

Confronted with this situation, the Pope proposes "a renewed commitment" which is "indispensable if we are to face the challenges of secularization, so that believers may make their entire life a true spiritual worship that is pleasing to God," in particular, through rediscovering the "value of Sunday," as he explained at the Angelus on Aug. 3.

"This day is the symbol par excellence of all that Christianity has stood for and still stands for, in Europe and throughout the world: the perennial proclamation of the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus, the celebration of his victory over sin and death, the commitment to the human being's full liberation," he said.

"By preserving the Christian meaning of Sunday, a notable contribution is made to Europe for the preservation of an essential part of its own particular spiritual and cultural heritage," he added.

This proclamation of the essential message of the Gospel, he said this past Sunday, must be supported by "effective human promotion," inspired by "the culture of solidarity."

"Today too, it is necessary to give renewed hope to the poor, so that in welcoming and serving them, it is Christ himself who welcomes and serves," he said. "Many challenges in this regard confront European believers. Today, there are many categories of persons who are poor: among them, the unemployed, the sick, isolated or abandoned elderly persons, the homeless, marginalized youth, immigrants and refugees."

"A service of love also means to re-propose faithfully the truth about matrimony and the family, to educate young people, engaged couples and families themselves to live and spread the Gospel of life, fighting against the culture of death," the Holy Father added.

The Pope's constant reminder of the need to recognize the contribution of Christian values is based on his conviction, expressed the same day, that "only with everyone's contribution will it be possible to build a 'city worthy of man' in Europe and in the world, and a more just and stable international order."