VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2005 ( John Paul II emphasized the value of life and family, and the need for housing and improved city transportation, when he met officials of Rome and the surrounding Latium region.

The Pope also emphasized the primacy of the person, at an audience today where he exchanged New Year's greetings with Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, Latium President Francesco Storace, and 250 employees of the city, region and province.

The Holy Father applauded the recent approval of the statute of Latium which, among other things, "recognizes explicitly the primacy of the person and the fundamental value of life."

It also recognizes "the rights of the family as a natural society founded on marriage and proposes to support it in fulfilling its social function," John Paul II told his guests.

The statute "also provides for the region to guarantee the right to study and the freedom of educational choices," he said.

The Pope expressed his satisfaction at the signing of the protocol between the diocesan vicariate, the city, and the region for building new parish complexes on Rome's outskirts, which he said will contribute to "social integration."

The agreement also promotes "collaboration between the Church and the institutions of the municipality, of the province, and of the region for the promotion of cultural events that give value to our great artistic, historical and spiritual heritage," the Pope added.

John Paul II did not fail to mention existing problems that merit the attention of the city's and region's administrators.

First, he pointed out the "lack of adequate housing," which makes difficult "the constitution of new families."

The Pope then mentioned "the sad phenomena of drug addiction and, more broadly, the frustration of youth" which call for "an ever vigilant commitment" to preserve as far as possible the future of young people.

"What can we say of city traffic, which becomes more congested and difficult every year?" the Pontiff asked. ''It is the cause of notable difficulties in the daily lives of many persons and families."

He asked the officials to address jointly the question of "urban transport" and the establishment of "new lines of communication."