The Holy Father urged students to "return with joy" to their classrooms, and to recognize education as both "a great gift" and a "fundamental right."
Illiteracy, the Pope continued, is "a plague, a heavy handicap" which can be compared with hunger and homelessness-- a problem which deprives man of his full dignity. For that reason, he said, society should give the schools whatever resources they need to educate children properly. Education, he concluded, is "always a fruitful investment."
The Pope delivered his Angelus message from Castel Gandalfo, where he remains at his summer residence.
In a related matter to children, through a message addressed to Bishop Raymond Seguy, of the French diocese of Chalon sur Saone, Pope John Paul II has called attention to the 1000th anniversary of the institution of a special day of prayer for deceased young children.
The commemoration of dead children was instituted by St. Odilon, the abbot of Cluny, in 998. The memorial is observed on the morning of November 2-- the morning of the feast of All Saints. The tradition is upheld by the monks of Cluny to this day.
For the Church, the Holy Father observed in his message, "no situation is completely lost." Through the salvific action of Jesus Christ, he explained, "the Church hopes for eternal salvation for all children, as indeed for all men." The Pope requested prayers for dead children, especially during this year marking the millennium of their feast day.
Still focusing on youth, in an apostolic letter honoring the 50th anniversary of the international organization of Catholic Scouts, Pope John Paul II called on the leaders of the scout movement to a more "radical" witness to Gospel virtues.
To representatives of the scout group-- who had took time off from their conference in Rome to join his Angelus audience on Sunday-- the Pope thanked the scout leaders for their "teaching based on Gospel values," and their insistence on "moral rectitude and the spirit of self-discipline, as well as their service to society and the Church. He pointed out that scouting has in practice proven to be an effective means of preparing young people for religious life.
Finally, the Pope said, the international scouting movement has enabled young people of different races, languages, and cultures to meet and educate each other. He praised the "ecumenical spirit" of the Scout movement, and its contribution to international understanding.
Father Luciano Benedetti, 56, was kidnapped last week by a group of about 30 suspected Muslim rebels. Father Giulio Mariani, the priest's superior, said he had received a letter from Father Benedetti urging a halt to the planned operation. "He is asking that the military sort of take a low profile so that nothing untoward will happen to them," Father Mariani said. "He says that if they carry out the military operation, there may not be any survivors."
Father Benedetti is one of about nine people known to be held by kidnap gangs on Mindanao island where Muslim guerillas are fighting a campaign to set up an autonomous homeland. The other victims held by kidnappers include three Hong Kong nationals and a Taiwan woman, all abducted last week. Father Mariani said he had not received any ransom demands for Father Benedetti.
Meanwhile, in Bogota, Columbia, two gunmen burst into a rural Colombian church on Friday and shot the priest as he celebrated Mass and seriously injured a woman who attempted to aid the priest.
Father Alcides Jimenez had served the village of Puerto Caicedo in southwestern Colombia for 20 years, and had recently led a demonstration in support of the government's call for peace talks with Marxist rebels. Police said right-wing gunmen were suspected in the attack.
Father Jimenez was in the middle of his sermon when the murderers entered the church and shot him at least 14 times.
Catholics confronted the local Orthodox priest last Tuesday after they tried to enter the church and found the locks had been changed by the Orthodox. A fight broke out with about 50 people eventually becoming involved. Police said no arrests were made and no injuries were reported. The church is under joint use while ownership is being considered by a court.
Catholics have been able to worship freely in Romania since the fall of Communism in 1989. The former Communist government had outlawed Catholicism and transferred Catholic churches to the Orthodox Church in 1948, which Catholics now want returned.
In a telegram of condolence addressed to Cardinal Friedrich Wetter of Munich, Pope John Paul described the late Cardinal Grillmeier as a "great man of the Church and a great theologian."
Born in 1910, Cardinal Grillmeier had entered the Society of Jesus in 1929 and was ordained a priest in 1937. After years of teaching theology in Germany, he was a peritus during the Second Vatican Council-- where he worked on the conciliar theological commission, alongside the Polish Archbishop Karol Wojtyla-- who in 1994, having becoming Pope John Paul II, raised him to the College of Cardinals.
With the death of the German cardinal, the College now numbers 157 members, of whom 118 are eligible to participate in a papal election. Of the entire College, 128-- and 103 of the eligible voters-- have received their red hats from Pope John Paul II. Before the end of September, three Italian cardinals will reach the age of 80 and become ineligible to vote in a conclave.