VATICAN CITY, AUG. 22, 2003 ( John Paul II called for the overcoming of a vague "ecological feeling" by "the sense of responsibility that derives from faith."

The Pope made this appeal in a message sent to 20,000 young members of the Italian Catholic Guides and Scouts Association (AGESCI).

The association met from July 28 to Aug. 7 in an Italian National Camp rally which took place simultaneously in four localities: Monteleone de Spoleto, Montella, Assemini and Vialfre.

In his message, the Holy Father referred to the typical ambience experienced in these scenic places, where campers spend the night in a tent.

He added: "I would like to return to one of the formative topics dear to you, that is, the importance you must give continually to deepening your faith through practical love of, and respect for, nature."

Today "this is an urgent and obligatory task for everyone, but it has always been so for scouts, who are motivated not by some vague ecological feeling, but by the sense of responsibility that derives from faith," the Pope said.

"The protection of creation, in fact, is a distinctive feature of Christian commitment in the world," the papal message continued.

"Where everything speaks of the Creator and his wisdom, from the majestic mountains to the enchanting, flower-strewn valleys, may you learn to contemplate God's beauty, and may your souls, as it were, breathe, opening to praise, silence and contemplation of the divine mystery," the Pope told the youths.

"When Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to Mount Tabor, he certainly had the opportunity to admire with them the view of Galilee that one can enjoy from those heights. But this was obviously not his primary aim. He wanted to make his disciples share in his prayer and to show them his glorious face in order to prepare them to bear up under the harsh trial of the Passion," the Pope continued.

"Keeping things in proper proportion, is this not also the meaning of the camps that AGESCI offers its members?" he asked.

"These are important moments in which, with the help of the natural environment, you will have a strong experience of God, of Jesus, and of fraternal communion," he concluded. "All this prepares you for life, for founding your most demanding plans on faith and for overcoming crises with the light and strength that come from Above."