VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2004 ( John Paul II says that sound ethical practices in the financial and commercial sectors are needed in order to safeguard the common good.

This is the conclusion of his message addressed to the participants in the conference on "The Business Executive: Social Responsibility and Globalization," organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Christian Business Executives. The conference is being held today and Saturday.

In his message to the more than 80 business leaders, experts and professors gathered in Rome, the Pope explained that their meeting "is taking place at a time when the financial and commercial sector is becoming increasingly aware of the need for sound ethical practices."

The papal message stressed that ethics is what "ensures that business activity remains sensitive to its fundamentally human and social dimensions."

"Since the pursuit of profit is not the sole end of such activity, the Gospel challenges business men and women to embody respect both for the dignity and creativity of their employees and customers and the demands of the common good," he said.

John Paul II continued by pointing out the virtues that should characterize the Christian businessperson: "diligence, industriousness, prudence in undertaking reasonable risks, reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relationships, and courage in carrying out decisions which are difficult and painful."

"In a world tempted by consumerist and materialist outlooks, Christian executives are called to affirm the priority of 'being' over 'having,'" he emphasized.

"Christians charged with responsibility in the business world are challenged to combine the legitimate pursuit of profit with a deeper concern for the spread of solidarity and the elimination of the scourge of poverty which continues to afflict so many members of the human family," the message concluded.