VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2004 ( John Paul II numbered the negative consequences of globalization, anti-family ideologies and the rich-poor divide as some of the most urgent challenges for the Church in the Americas.

The Holy Father also analyzed the resources of the Church in those countries in which half of the world's Catholics live when reviewing the progress on the conclusions of the First Synod of Bishops for America, held in Rome from Nov. 16 to Dec. 12, 1997.

The conclusions of that continental ecclesial summit were summarized by the Holy Father in the Post-Synodal Exhortation "Ecclesia in America," which he himself promulgated in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City on Jan. 22, 1999.

The Pope presented his evaluation in Italian to cardinals and bishops whom he received in audience and who participated in the ninth meeting of the post-synodal council.

"Among the challenges of the present moment, in addition to the harmful action of the sects, other difficulties must be mentioned, such as, for example, the negative consequences of globalization, especially when an absolute value is attributed to the economy," the Pope emphasized.

John Paul II then made reference to "the growing urbanization, with the inevitable cultural uprooting; the trade and consumption of drugs; modern ideologies that consider the concept of the family based on marriage as having been transcended; the progressive difference between the rich and poor; violations of human rights; migratory movements and the complex problem of the external debt."

"And, what to say of the culture of death, which expresses itself in different ways, such as the arms race, the execrable practice of unbridled violence by the guerrilla and international terrorism?" the Pope continued.

The Holy Father then enumerated the resources available to Christians in the Americas to address these challenges.

"First of all, they can count on the faith, gift which not only has formed the Christian identity of the continent, but has manifested itself throughout history in the moral principles and ideals that have nourished the culture of its peoples."

"Much remains yet to be done to consolidate the Christian identity of the continent. If, in fact, Catholicism predominates in Latin America, in the rest of the countries the presence of the other Christian confessions is more consistent," he said.

"This diversity, if lived in the charity that brings together, will be a stimulus for the ecumenical dialogue, without this weakening 'the firm conviction that only in the Catholic Church is found the fullness of the means of salvation established by Jesus Christ, '" the Pope said quoting "Ecclesia in America."

Another great gift that divine grace has aroused in America is popular piety, profoundly rooted in its different nations. This peculiar characteristic of the American people, if properly oriented, purified and enriched with the genuine elements of Catholic doctrine, will be able to become a useful instrument to help believers address, in an appropriate manner, the challenges of secularization," he continued.

"Finally, the Church in America has been enriched with the gift of a peculiar social sensibility, especially towards the poor, which is manifested in a profound solidarity among persons and peoples," he explained.

"I recall that precisely the synodal fathers of the general assembly for America indicated the opportunity to prepare a 'Catechism of Catholic Social Doctrine,' suggestions that I wished to include in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and that was recently realized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace with the publication of the 'Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,'" the Pope concluded.

Of the 1.07 billion Catholics in the world, 535 million live in the American continent.