VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 2004 ( John Paul II warned that it is not possible to speak of "social conquests" when the latter do not respect the fundamental rights of the human person, beginning with life.

The Pope said this today when he received the letters of credence of Spain's new ambassador to the Holy See, Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo. In his address, the Holy Father touched upon currently debated issues of the new Spanish government's program.

John Paul II pointed out the inconsistencies "of certain tendencies of our time that, while on one hand magnify people's well-being, on the other gravely disregard their dignity and fundamental rights, as is the case when the fundamental right to life is limited or manipulated," abortion being an example.

"To protect human life is the duty of all, as the question of life and of its promotion is not only the prerogative of Christians, but belongs to every human conscience that aspires to truth and is concerned about humanity's destiny," he said.

"The real 'social conquests' are the ones that promote and protect, at the same time, the life of each individual and the common good of society," he continued.

"In this realm there are some mistakenly called 'social conquests,' which, in reality, are so only for some at the cost of the sacrifice of others, and that public authorities, guarantors and not the originators of rights that are innate to all, should regard, rather, with concern and alarm," the Holy Father noted.

Juan Fernando López Aguilar, justice minister of the Spanish Socialist government, announced a few weeks ago that his department will push for reforms in the legislature to permit same-sex marriages and to enlarge the possibilities for legal abortions.

The Pope also spoke about the family, saying that its rights "are primarily vis-à-vis larger social bodies."

"Among such rights not to be forgotten is the right to be born and to grow up in a stable home, where the words father and mother may be said with joy and not deceit," the Holy Father said.

"Thus, the little ones are also prepared to open themselves confidently to life and society, which will benefit in its totality if there is no ceding to voices that seem to confuse marriage with other, all together different, when not contrary, forms of union, or which seem to regard children as mere objects for their own satisfaction," he lamented.

Lastly, John Paul II defended families' right and duty "to educate their children, doing so according to their own moral and religious convictions, as an integral formation cannot ignore the transcendent and spiritual dimension of the human being."

"In this context, mention must be made of the role of educational institutions linked to the Church, which contribute to the common good, as well as of so many others which in different areas offer a service to citizens, often the less favored ones," the Pontiff said.

"Nor must one undervalue the teaching of the Catholic religion in state institutions, based precisely on the right of families that request it, without discriminations or impositions," he indicated.

One of the first decisions of the government of the Spanish Socialist Labor Party, whose Prime Minister is José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, was to suspend the application of the educational Quality Law. The law, among other things, seeks to give academic recognition to the subject of religion.

John Paul II plans to meet will Prime Minister Rodríguez Zapatero next Monday in the Vatican.