VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2004 ( John Paul II stressed the duty of every person, particularly politicians, to defend children and adolescents whose dignity continues to be violated with impunity.

The Pope spoke today of the "immense cry of pain of abandoned and violated children," when receiving 200 deputies from more than 100 countries in audience at the conclusion of the first Conference of Women Parliamentarians for the Protection of Children and Adolescents. The conference was an initiative convoked by the presidency of the Italian Parliament.

The Holy Father expressed his appreciation for this meeting held in Rome, which sought to find efficient ways for institutions to protect minors.

He encouraged the women politicians to maintain this commitment, "aware that children and adolescents are the hope of humanity."

"They are the most precious treasure and at the same time the most fragile and vulnerable," John Paul II said in the address he delivered in Italian. "Therefore, all their legitimate needs and aspirations must be heard constantly and with attention."

"No one can be silent or remain indifferent when innocent children suffer, or when they are marginalized and wounded in their dignity as human persons," he stressed.

"The immense cry of pain of abandoned and violated children in not a few regions of the earth must lead public institutions, private associations, and all people of good will to renew their awareness of the duty we all have to protect, defend and educate with respect and love these fragile creatures," the Pope noted.

The Holy Father reminded the parliamentarians that in the Gospel Jesus presented children as "our 'models of life'" and condemned "with firmness those who do not respect them."