PARIS (AP) _ Pope John Paul II today criticized efforts by Western nations to cut back on immigration, declaring that the world's needy deserve assistance whatever their nationality.

In a packed Notre Dame Cathedral, John Paul used the occasion of a beatification of a lay charity worker to challenge developed nations to rethink their attitudes toward immigration.

``Who is my neighbor? The neighbor is every human being without exception. It is not necessary to ask his nationality, or to which social or religious group he belongs,'' John Paul said. ``If he is in need, he must be helped.''

John Paul is in Paris for a four-day rendezvous with hundreds of thousands of youths attending World Youth Day events.

Several European countries and the United States are debating whether to curb immigration. In Italy, for example, several recent sexual attacks on vacationers blamed on immigrants has put pressure on the government to revise policies.

In beatifying Frederic Ozanam, who founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the 19th century, John Paul noted that he took up the cause of ``those with no one to care for them.''

``He understood that charity must lead to efforts to remedy injustice,'' the pope continued.

He spoke before several hundred bishops from around the world and about 6,000 others invited to the three-hour beatification, which marks the last formal step before possible sainthood.

John Paul requested time in the afternoon to pray privately at the tomb of a French geneticist who founded an anti-abortion group.

John Paul was scheduled to fly by helicopter to the tomb in Chalo-Saint-Mars, about 40 miles southeast of Paris, where Jerome Lejeune was buried in 1994.

Abortion rights defenders have protested the planned visit.

John Paul's last two days in Paris, on Saturday and Sunday, will be dedicated completely to World Youth Day events.

Many people attending Youth Day gathered at dawn today outside the church residence where the pontiff was staying to serenade him, as did others late Thursday night.

After wilting Thursday under a scorching sun, John Paul appeared more rested at Notre Dame.

Several thousand worshipers who entered the cathedral for the invitation-only service passed through metal detectors, evidence of the intense security precautions around the pontiff.

Thousands of others jammed into the square outside.

The bishops, streaming into the cathedral two by two, presented a river of color in their rainbow striped robes, specially designed for World Youth Day by Frenchman Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. The rainbow design has drawn criticism from some conservative clergy because of its use by the gay rights movement.

The pontiff himself also was dressed in a Castelbajac design: a cream-colored vestment adorned with appliqued yellow, blue, red and green crosses. The crosses were the personal handiwork of Francois Lesage, famous in France for his embroidery.

The pope's appeal to the young had an extra resonance in France, where the Catholic Church has been lagging in popularity _ particularly among the young, who see it as increasingly less relevant to their own lives and problems.

In a poll published Thursday in the Catholic newspaper La Croix, 65 percent of young French people who were questioned said religion had little or no importance in their lives.