VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2003 ( A day after canonizing as a saint the first bishop of Central Africa, John Paul II proposed the foundation of a Catholic university in Sudan.

The Pope made his suggestion today when he met in Paul VI Hall with thousands of pilgrims who attended Sunday's canonization of Daniel Comboni and two other missionaries.

Recalling the founder of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and of the Comboni Sisters, the Holy Father suggested that "the project to found a Catholic university in Sudan, a land loved by Comboni," be carried out.

Plans to establish such a university were abandoned in the 1980s when war gripped the nation.

Bishop Daniel Comboni (1831-1881), whose see was in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, worked on a "Plan for the Regeneration of Africa." He summed up his project with the motto "Save Africa through Africa," a sign of his confidence in the capacities of the peoples there.

"I am convinced that such an important cultural institution will offer a qualified service to the whole of Sudanese society," the Pope said of the university.

The project to renew the construction of the university was relaunched a few days ago in a letter signed by Archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum. He is scheduled to be elevated to cardinal on Oct. 21.

The letter is addressed "to all women and men concerned about the tragic situation of war in Sudan."

In this country, which over the past few decades has seen projects of Islamization, "the absence of lay Catholics, men and women, committed and qualified in public life, is the reason for the absence of Christian values in social life," the archbishop lamented.

The Sudanese bishops' conference launched the project to found a university in the early 1980s, with the support of both the Holy See and the government. Sudan's political situation then degenerated and the bishops halted the project.

"It is indeed a fact that in Sudan the sole intellectual and cultural source is Islam," Archbishop Zubeir Wako said. "Should the present government approve the Comboni University of Sudan, it would mean an opening for intercultural and interreligious dialogue."

He said he hopes the university will start in Khartoum and later extend to the various dioceses of Sudan, as was the case with the Comboni schools.