VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II lamented the continuing threat of terrorism and the toll of the world's "forgotten" wars in an end-of-the-year message to Vatican officials on Saturday.
The pope cited current conflicts and those that threaten to explode in outlining the state of the Roman Catholic Church in 2002 to the Roman Curia, the Vatican administrative body that helps the pontiff govern.
"The situation of the Holy Land remains emblematic, but other 'forgotten' wars are no less devastating," the pope said. "In addition, terrorism continues to kill many victims and digs new trenches."
It was the second message of peace the pope has issued this holiday season. Earlier this week, John Paul released his message for the Church's World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, in which he decried the political stalemate in the Middle East and the disregard for human rights in the region.
"How can we not hope that hearts open, above all the hearts of the young, to welcome those values to build a future of true and durable peace," the pope said Saturday.
He cited a radio message delivered by World War II-era Pope Pius XII — criticized by Jews for failing to speak out during the Holocaust — in which the then-pontiff lamented the "appalling" toll the war had taken.
Pius XII was wise to have called for a "new national and international order" in 1942, and more than a half-century later, his assessment has been reconfirmed, John Paul said.
John Paul also complained about the destruction of the environment and highlighted a joint statement he signed in June with the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, which said the protection of the environment was a "moral and spiritual" duty of all.
The pope made no mention in his comments to the sex abuse scandal which has convulsed the American church this year, leading to the resignation last week of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the chief orthodoxy watchdog at the Vatican and also dean of the College of Cardinals, similarly made no mention of the scandal in his comments to the pope on behalf of the cardinals.
Ratzinger said only that it was a year in which "we have been able to welcome with gratitude signs of God, but we have also experienced the power of sin, which threatens man and the world."
In a separate development Saturday, the Vatican announced a slight change in the pope's traditional Christmas Day greeting, known as his "Urbi et Orbi" message — Latin for "To the City and to the World."
The speech is usually delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. This year, John Paul will deliver it from the piazza in front of the basilica, because of renovations upstairs near the balcony, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.