VATICAN CITY, JULY 22, 2004 ( John Paul II appealed to the world community and the Sudanese government to find a solution to the conflict in the country's Darfur region and avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

At the same time, when sending a special envoy to the west of Sudan, the Pope urged the mobilization of the Church and the world to relieve the plight of the region's people.

The special envoy, Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," arrived in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum today.

He will meet with key Church figures, including Cardinal Zubeir Wako, archbishop of Khartoum, and Archbishop François Mamberti, apostolic nuncio. With U.N. help, the papal envoy will travel to Darfur, to visit refugee camps.

"The recent agreement between the government of Khartoum and the Sudanese People Liberation Army-Sudanese People Liberation Movement" has "opened some good possibilities for peace and development for the entire country," says a letter sent on the Pope's behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to Archbishop Cordes.

"However, the serious humanitarian situation in Darfur, which has recently stirred up a public outcry, is a cause of great concern for Pope John Paul II," the letter states.

Rebel groups and the Sudanese army have clashed in Darfur since February 2003. The rebel groups accuse the Khartoum government of abandoning Darfur's black population and of funding the Arab "Janjaweed" militias that have sown death and destruction to the area.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano explained that, with the visit of the papal envoy, John Paul II "wishes to send his greetings to the beloved Catholic community and to all the people of Sudan who are in distress and in need, especially in the region of Darfur, and to assure them of his closeness, solidarity and prayer, in particular for the refugees, who suffer on account of the ongoing conflicts and their grave consequences."

"It is the hope of the Holy Father that the people of Darfur will be given all the necessary humanitarian aid, especially in the upcoming rainy season, during which time their survival will become even more difficult," he said.

"He trusts that the Sudanese authorities, in partnership with the international community, will intensify their efforts to reach a just solution for Darfur," the Vatican secretary of state added.

"This will happen when the voice of the peoples of Darfur is heard and recognized, and when their fundamental human rights are respected, especially the right to life, to political and religious freedom, and to a peaceful existence in their own territories," the letter clarified.

"The recognition of the rights of the various peoples of the Sudanese population will allow all citizens of the country, without distinction, to offer their own contribution to the building of a just society, based on solidarity and the good of each and every member," Cardinal Sodano emphasized.

"In particular," he added, "respect for the legitimate local authorities will ensure that the contrasts and problems of Darfur will not extend further or deepen, thus threatening to render vain the results of the peace accords between the North and the South, reached after prolonged and difficult negotiations."