Pope John Paul II called Monday for "a new economic restructuring" in an homily delivered to Roman Catholics in a smokestack region of France afflicted by the decline of mining and heavy industry.
At a Mass here on the third day of his four-day trip to northeastern France, the pontiff urged Roman Catholics to look to their faith for courage in confronting crisis in society."Today the economic recession is leaving a large number of residents of Lorraine without work," he told thousands of people packed into the soaring Gothic cathedral of St. Etienne in Metz.
"It is a difficult problem. You are all invited to do everything you can to bring about a new economic restructuring that will offer everyone the possibility of work and a dignified life."
Although the Alsace-Lorraine region reports an unemployment rate only slightly higher than the national average of 10.5 percent, joblessness in industrial cities such as Metz exceeds the regional rate.
The decline in heavy industry and mining has particularly hurt immigrants who came in waves from Europe and North Africa during the industrial boom years of the 1960s and 1970s and now make up nearly 10 percent of the population of Metz and the surrounding area.
The 68-year-old pope, resplendent in a glittering gold robe, spoke to an overflow crowd bathed in sunlight pouring in through brilliant stained glass windows.
He appealed to them to build a strong faith to withstand changes in society. Although France is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, only a small percentage practice their faith.
The pope called on Catholics to construct a more humane society and added, "The task is immense . . . but God will not abandon you."
On Sunday, the pope sailed down the Rhine River between France and West Germany to bless boatmen and port workers as men whose vision transcends national boundaries.
"You constitute an inspiring milieu which shows a solidarity frontiers cannot stop," the pontiff said.
His speech, delivered in German and French, stressed the main theme of this trip, the unification of Europe.
Later Sunday, the pope condemned anti-semitism in a meeting with representatives of Strasbourg's Jewish community, saying it was "opposed to the principles of Christianity."
Masses were also to be said Monday in Nancy. On Tuesday, the Polish-born pontiff was scheduled to talk to the European Parliament, a speech that will be the centerpiece of his visit and will set forth the Roman Catholic Church's vision of a unified continent.