VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2004 ( As the draft European Constitution remains at a standstill, John Paul II is again insisting that the document make explicit recognition of the continent's Christian roots.

The Pope appealed to Italy today to do everything possible to achieve this objective, which has been supported publicly by the government as well as by many opposition leaders.

Reminding the government that Christianity is a part of the "historic patrimony of the Italian people," the Pope appealed to the country "to do all that is possible so that, in the competent bodies, Europe will also recognize its own Christian roots."

These roots, he said, "are capable of ensuring an identity for the citizens of the continent that is not ephemeral or based simply on political and economic interests, but on profound values that do not perish."

The Holy Father made his appeal when receiving the letters of credence of Giuseppe Balboni Acqua, the new Italian ambassador to the Holy See.

"The ethical principles and ideals that constituted the foundation of the efforts for European unity are even more necessary today, if there is to be stability in the institutional profile of the European Union," the Pope stressed.

Finally, John Paul II urged Italy to "continue to remind its sister nations of the extraordinary religious, cultural and civil heritage that has given Europe greatness through the centuries."

The European Inter-Governmental Conference held in Brussels last month ended without an agreement on the system of voting in the European Union's decision-making process, blocking the approval of the draft Constitutional Treaty.

Ireland, which holds the rotating EU presidency in the first quarter of 2004, will likely continue the talks between the governments. No date has been set for a conference to analyze the draft Constitution again.