The Holy Father's priorities this year.
In a speech to the diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the ailing, 84-year-old pontiff laid out the Roman Catholic Church's priorities for the new year, making clear he intended to use his energies to tackle what he called "challenges of life" issues — abortion, cloning, gay marriage, assisted procreation and embryonic stem cell use.
In an obvious reference to laws permitting marriage between homosexuals or equating the social rights of unwed couples to married ones, John Paul said that in some countries, the family's "natural structure" has been challenged.
Families "must necessarily be that of a union between a man and a woman founded on marriage," he said.
John Paul also reasserted the church's opposition to abortion, assisted procreation and scientific research on human embryonic stem cells.
"The human embryo is a subject identical to the human being, which will be born at the term of its development," the pope said.
More must be done about the world's hungry, including millions of children dying from malnutrition, the pontiff said.
He urged a "vast moral mobilization of public opinion" and said political leaders should also take up the call, especially those in well-off countries.