VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2003 ( When giving relief to the needy, "the profound aspiration that beats in every human creature to seek and know God" must not be neglected, says John Paul II.

The Pope made that point when receiving the participants in the 25th plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum."

The council, which administers papal charity, is holding its plenary assembly in the Vatican until Saturday. The theme of the assembly is "The Dimension of Religion in Charitable Activity."

"The Church is at the service of man and his varied and concrete material and spiritual needs," the Holy Father told the participants.

However, the Church "is not limited to satisfying the material expectations of those in difficulty," he said. "[It] goes out to meet the most hidden existential questions, even when they are not clearly expressed."

Thus the Church "does not exhaust its charitable action in constructing structures and charitable works," the Pope said. With "simplicity and pastoral prudence it does not hesitate to witness Christ, who reveals the face of God the Father, tender and merciful."

In fact, "all of us are seeking satisfactory answers to the great questions of life. We Christians know that the true and satisfactory answer to many anxieties of the human heart is found only in Jesus," the Holy Father said.

Herein lies "the significance and evangelical value of the diaconate of charity, which the Church exercises through its beneficent institutions and that is seen in the dedication of so many persons," he said.

"To communicate to the world the love" that the Church has received from Christ, in order to be a "support for many brothers and sisters in difficulty" -- this is the task that the Holy Father entrusts to this dicastery following in the footsteps of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, whom he called a "luminous example of this service of love toward God and one's neighbor."

Pope Paul VI established "Cor Unum" with the 1971 letter "Amoris Officio." The dicastery's mission in part is "to express the Catholic Church's concern for the needy, in order to foster human fraternity and express the charity of Christ."

The council is the Pontiff's executive instrument for carrying out special humanitarian initiatives in response to calamities or to foster integral human development. "Cor Unum" also promotes the catechesis of charity and supports initiatives of Catholic institutions through the exchange of information in the area of human development.