VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2003 ( John Paul II appealed to European citizens not to forget the values that forged the continent's history, and to recognize that Christianity was the force capable of promoting those ideals.

The Pope's appeal today came on the eve of the start of a two-day meeting of the European Council in Brussels, which is expected to complete the text of the future European Constitution.

Sources in the Italian government, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, told ZENIT that mention of the Christian roots in the preamble of the Constitutional Treaty is all but discarded.

During the annual Mass celebrated for university students in St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father said: "It is indispensable that the Europe of today safeguard its patrimony of values, and recognize that it was above all the force of Christianity that was capable of promoting, conciliating and consolidating them."

The Pope's homily was an appeal to the 10,000 young people from 34 countries to make their contribution to "the process of European integration."

"Undoubtedly, for the unity of Europe, the social, political and economic structures are of great importance, but the humanistic and spiritual aspects cannot be left to one side," John Paul II said.

He read the entire homily himself in a clear and strong voice. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, presided over the Mass.

The Mass closed the international congress on the mobility of university students among the European countries, and the meeting of national delegates of university pastoral care. The Council of European Bishops' Conferences organized both initiatives.

At the end of the Mass, the Pope gave the icon "Seat of Wisdom" to the Irish delegation. The Virgin Mary's image will visit the universities of Ireland.