VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2003 ( John Paul II appealed to Catholics in the Philippines to embrace the struggle against corruption in their country.

"Events of recent years in the Philippines have illustrated the urgent need for integral evangelization in all sectors of society, especially in the spheres of government and public policy," the Pope said today when he received a group of bishops from the Asian country.

"As concerned Christians and citizens of the world, we can never ignore the evil of corruption which is undermining the social and political development of so many peoples," he told the bishops of Manila, Lingayen-Dagupan and other provinces, who were concluding their five-yearly visit to the Rome.

"In this regard, it must be made clear that no office of public service can ever be treated as private property or as a personal privilege," the Holy Father continued.

"Considering public office as a benefice necessarily results in favoritism, which in turn leads to the abuse and misuse of public money, bribery, graft, influence peddling and corruption," he said.

"The people of the Philippines are aware that to denounce corruption publicly requires great courage," the Holy Father said. "To eliminate corruption calls for the committed support of all citizens, the resolute determination of the authorities, and a firm moral conscience."

"The Church has a major role here inasmuch as she is the primary agent for properly forming people’s conscience," he added. "Her function, as a rule, should not be that of direct intervention in matters that are strictly political, but rather that of converting individuals and evangelizing culture, so that society itself can take up the task of promoting social transformation and develop a keen sense of transparency in government and abhorrence of corruption."