The Vatican has mobilised Catholic university students in support of its demands that the new European Constitution include a reference to Europe's "Christian roots".
Pope John Paul II spoke to a gathering of thousands of Italian and European Catholic students during the "European University Day" instituted by the European Council of Bishops' Conferences.
Satellite links connected thousands more from Sweden, Slovakia, Poland, Portugal, Austria and Germany. The theme was "Human charity, soul of the new Europe" with emphasis on the conservation of what the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano called the "Christian roots of the Old Continent".
Lorenzo Leuzzi, head of the Vatican's office for university chaplains, said: "In this moment in history, when Europe is engaged in drawing up a constitution and searching for common values, it is necessary that Christians exercise the specific aspects of their Christian experience...
Intellectual commitment and research are among the main paths for helping people to find basic values and to form consciences."