VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2004 ( In a war-torn world, missionaries help Christ to carry the cross in every person who suffers, says John Paul II.

The Pope invited missionaries to seek "new paths for the Gospel" when he met today in the Vatican with the participants in the general assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies. The PMS support the Church's missionary activity in non-Christian areas.

"In the tumultuous times that humanity is living through, the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are at the service of the Churches in the world, represent a sure reference for those seeking the saving truth," the Holy Father said.

Addressing missionaries from 117 countries, John Paul II said that they offer "a message of love and hope."

"The hope of which you are heralds, is born from the death and resurrection of Christ," he said. "For this reason, you must have a special consideration for those peoples of the world in which the pain is greatest and the needs most acute: the populations of the so-called Third World."

"The missionaries of the Gospel, who preach solidarity and love and sacrifice themselves for peace, at times even offer the gift of life for the love of Christ impels them," the Pope added.

"You are, therefore, Cyrenians who help the Savior to carry his cross in every suffering and dying person. You are, in every sense, authentic missionaries in an already globalized world, in which suffering for the sake of truth and justice surpasses all national borders," he said.

"When you are anguished about the sufferings of other peoples and you make an effort to alleviate their great need of help, you help your own peoples to abandon the smallness of egoism, the asphyxia of abundance, and the emptiness of ways of behavior that at times are unworthy of human beings," the Holy Father concluded.

The Pontifical Mission Societies constitute one institution with four key endeavors:

-- The Pontifical Mission Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which aims to awaken interest in Christian communities about the responsibility to aid universal evangelization.

-- The Pontifical Mission Society of St. Peter the Apostle, which sensitizes Christian people about the need for the formation of a native clergy in each mission Church.

-- The Pontifical Mission Society for Holy Childhood, which helps educators and formators of children and adolescents to awaken in them a missionary awareness.

-- The Pontifical Missionary Union of the Clergy, which is in charge of promoting the missionary formation of priests, religious and those consecrated.

The assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies is revising its statutes. They will be published in May 2005.