VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2003 ( John Paul II warns that hunger constitutes a threat to peace in the new globalized world.

The Pope expressed this conviction today when receiving the participants of the 32nd Conference of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), being held in Rome through Dec. 10.

"Hunger and malnutrition, aggravated by growing poverty, represent a grave threat to the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations," the Pope said in English, when greeting the participants.

"By its efforts to combat the nutritional insecurity which affects vast areas of our world, FAO makes a significant contribution to the advancement of world peace," he said.

Among those in the audience were New Zealand Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton, who is presiding at this year's session, and FAO Director General Jacques Diouf.

After mentioning the "close relationship between hunger and peace," the Holy Father added that it "is clear that economic and political decisions and strategies must increasingly be guided by a commitment to global solidarity and respect for fundamental human rights, including the right to adequate nourishment."

"Human dignity itself is compromised wherever a narrow pragmatism detached from the objective demands of the moral law leads to decisions which benefit a fortunate few while ignoring the sufferings of large segments of the human family," the Pope lamented.

In "conformity with the principle of subsidiarity, individuals and social groups, civil associations and religious confessions, governments and international institutions, are all called, according to their specific competencies and resources, to share in this commitment to solidarity in promoting the common good of humanity," he said.

In this context, John Paul II encouraged FAO in its plan to establish an International Alliance Against Hunger which should inspire political decisions in "the awareness that humanity is one family."

He added: "The world may not remain deaf to the plea of those who demand the food they need in order to survive."