VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2004 ( The growing phenomenon of sects calls for the promotion of solid religious formation among Catholics, says John Paul II.

This was one of the instructions the Pope gave to the bishops of the episcopal conference of the Indian Ocean (CEDOI) at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

CEDOI is composed of an Islamic republic (Comoros Islands), two republics that are part of the Commonwealth (Seychelles and Mauritius), an overseas French department (Réunion) and a French territorial community (Island of Mayotte).

During their visit, the prelates have handed reports to the Pope in which they mention the need of the laity in these countries for formation in the faith.

"It is indispensable that Christians have a solid religious formation to advance on the difficult path of commitment in the following of Christ," John Paul II said.

"The presence of believers of other religions, as well as the activity of the sects, should lead those of Christ to take up the means to be strengthened in the faith, so that they will not be sifted by any wind of doctrine, and be able to offer the testimony of the hope that animates them," he added.

In this connection, the Holy Father emphasized in his address, which he delivered in French, "the urgency to communicate the Word of God to people in their own culture, so that the mystery of Christ is proclaimed and received by all, so that each one hears it in his own language."

"The inculturation of the evangelical message is a task of great importance so that men and women of all nations and all cultures might encounter Christ and walk on the ways of the Gospel," he added.

In particular, John Paul II stressed that the testimony of the laity, in the social life of their countries, must be anchored in the social teaching of the Church, "precious aid for the service of the common good and the integral dignity of man."