Pope John Paul II expressed deep concern over the "situation created in the Mediterranean" after the U.S. attack on Tripoli and Benghazi and prayed for "above all those who are innocent victims" of wars, guerrilla warfare or terrorism.

Speaking Wednesday to more than 20,000 people gathered for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, the pope said, "I cannot but express and share with you at this moment my anguish and deep concern over the situation which has been created in the Mediterranean and of which you are all aware."

The Vatican's chief spokesman, Joaquin Navarro Valls, noted that the pope condemned terrorism but also all acts of reprisal when he delivered his annual "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and to the world) message Easter Sunday. John Paul refrained from mentioning reprisal in his general audience message this week.

"While I raise my invocation to the God of peace and justice," the pope said, "I invite all Catholics and men of goodwill to join in my prayer that God assist above all those who are innocent victims of similar situations and that he give those responsible for the fates of nations the wisdom and magnanimity needed in such a crucial moment to know and follow the road to a just accord among peoples."

United Methodist bishops are expected to declare an "unconditional 'no' " to nuclear weapons when they meet in Morristown, N.J., at the end of the month.

A draft letter, on which the bishops have worked since 1984, declares that nuclear deterrence "cannot receive the churches' blessing." They thus go further than U.S. Catholic bishops did in their 1983 letter on the subject.

The Catholic bishops conditionally accepted nuclear deterrence so long as real efforts were going on to negotiate elimination of such weaponry. However, the Methodist draft says U.S. deterrence policy, "even as an interim ethic, has been undermined by the unrelenting arms escalation."

The Methodist bishops will meet from April 29 to May 2.

A Roman Catholic Member of Parliament has proposed new legislation that would allow British conscientious objecjtors to pay a proportion of their income tax into a peace fund for Third World agencies instead of on defense spending.

Denis Canavan, a Labour member, estimates that the average British taxpayer contributes $675 each year to the government's Ministry of Defense. He claims that a gorwing number of people are "horrified" that their money is being spent in this "immoral" way.

The case for his legislation, says Canavan, is very simple. In 1916, Parliament recognized the statutory right of conscientious objection, particularly at times of war, and this right, he said, should now be extended to those who object to financing warfare through taxation.

"If it is morally wrong to kill people then it is also morally wrong to pay other people to do the killing or to pay for weapons to do the killing," he said, because of the indiscriminate nature of modern warfare.

The Rev. James Nelson, a convicted murderer who became a Church of Scotland minister, has formally been ordained and inducted to his first parish at Chapelhall Church, Lanarkshire.

Nelson, 42, answered in a quiet but firm voice as the statutory questions were put to him by the Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery, the Rev. Robert Stewart.

It was while serving a prison sentence for the murder of his mother that Nelson was converted to Christianity and became interested in studying for the ministry. He had served 10 years of a life sentence when he was released from prison in 1979. He began studies at St. Andrews University, Fife, where he received a bachelor of divinity degree.

He previously applied for vacant charges in the Highlands and East Lothian before the congregation at Chapelhall agreed to call him, as sole nominee, to the parish by 283 votes to 76.

U.S. Jewish leaders this week hailed Pope John PauPaul II's visit to a synagogue in Rome as deepening the bonds between Christianity and Judaism.

He has "changed dramatically the relationship of Christians and Jews" and "given heart" to those seeking greater mutual understanding, said Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, head of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which works to enhance religious freedom in the world, said the visit "will have a profound effect" on attitudes of both Catholics and Jews "for generations to come."

Rabbi Ronald B. Sobel of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith praised the pope's "recognition and reaffirmation" of God's "irrevocable call to the Jewish people."

A Chinese university professor predicts that China will be sending Christian missionaries to Europe and the United States by the end of the century.

C.K. Chang, 77, currently a visiting professor at Baylor University in Texas from An Hui Normal University in China, said rapidly advancing evangelization indicates Chinese by the year 2000 will be "be sending missionaries not only to our own people but all around the world."

The Rev. Adrian Rogers, whose 1979-80 term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention began a continuing surge of fundamentalist power in the denomination, said he's willing to be nominated again.

Rogers, a Memphis pastor, previously had avoided saying whether he was available for nomination at the denomination's convention in June against a prospective moderate conservative candidate, the Rev. Winifred Moore of Amarillo. Rogers said whoever is elected "should continue to nudge the denomination" toward a more conservative stance.