VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2004 ( John Paul II received in audience the two Italian women volunteers who were recently freed after being help captive in Iraq.

"Thank God you were saved," John Paul II told Simona Pari and Simona Torretta today.

The "two Simonas," as the pair are known in Italy, were liberated Sept. 28. They requested an audience with the Pope to thank him for his prayers and appeals for the release of all the kidnapped in Iraq.

The women, who spent 21 days in captivity -- together with two Iraqi colleagues, an engineer and another woman volunteer -- arrived at the Vatican today accompanied by their families.

They later told Italian Radio and Television (RAI) that they remained kneeling almost the entire time of their meeting with the Holy Father.

"We wish to thank you, because we know that you were very close to us during all that time, in the days of our captivity," Torretta told the Pope. "We wished to thank you."

On Sept. 8, the day after the women were kidnapped, the Pope recited a special prayer at the end of the general audience, in which he implored for their liberation, as well as that of all those kidnapped in Iraq.

On Saturday, when John Paul II received the Prize for Political Courage from a French review, he called for an end to the "trading in human lives" that takes place with kidnappings.