Pope John Paul II issued an unexpected appeal to Catholics in China today at the end of a hectic, pageantry-filled day that witnessed the first beatification ceremony held outside Rome and took the pontiff to one of Asia's most notorious slums.

The pope spoke to the Chinese Catholics in a speech broadcast live to the Asian mainland by the church-run station Radio Veritas as he met with representatives of Chinese communities in Asia invited to Manila for a special audience during his pastoral visit.

Church sources said China was John Paul's overriding concern on his historic Asian pilgrimage, noting his special interest in the Christians of the world's most populous nation.

The pope, who arrived here yesterday, told 100 Chinese Catholics from the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao -- to whom he distributed medallions bearing his image -- that he has wanted to express his esteem for China since he became head of the Vatican.

The pope's statements were seen as a first step toward a possible reconciliation with the Peking government and renewed ties with China's Catholics, who have been estranged from the Roman church since the communist takeover in 1949. Although the pope did not specifically refer to the split, he said: "what differences there may have been, they belong in the past."

In a day filled with mass adulation and near-pandemonium wherever he went, John Paul visited the slums of Tondo.Nearly 500,000 persons live here, with many families existing in one-room shacks of wood and corrugated iron. The pope was scheduled to visit two families living in an alley without sewerage, but the visit was canceled for unexplained security reasons.

The pope spoke in a small square on the edge of the Tondo that had been cleaned up for his visit. He declared the church to be with the poor and emphazised that human rights must be protected.

This was the second time the pope referred to human rights since his arrival in Manila. Yesterday afternoon, he delivered a homily on human rights during a courtesy call on President Ferdinand Marcos, reminding the government that human rights must be upheld in spite of the demands of state security.

In his speech at Tondo, John Paul said that the dignity of the poor must be preserved and that their inviolable human rights must be cherished and protected.

But in a pointed reference to left-wing clergy working among the poor, the pope said: "The road toward your total liberation is not the way of violence, class struggle or hate. It is the way of love, brotherhood and peaceful solidarity."

The pope was greeted with wild cheering by 80,000 youths when he addressed them this morning at the University of Santo Tomas. A beaming pope sat under a native bamboo canopy while the crowd chanted: "We love you, J.P. Two!"

A youth about 20 years old, who later said he wanted the pope's blessings, dashed across the papal stand and was quickly grabbed by security men. The pope intervened and patted the man and he was released.

Several antigovernment banners which read "free the country from U.S. imperialism" and "stop military atrocities" were unfurled as the pope urged Filipino youths to channel their energies in the right direction.

The pope's principal activity today was the beatification of 16 Asian and European martyrs, including Filipino Lorenzo Ruiz, before about 2 million people who gathered in windswept Luneta Park. The martyrs were all put to death by the Japanese in the 17th century.

After the proclamation, bells pealed throughout the city and hundreds of doves were released over Manila Bay.

The pope leaves Thursday for a two-day visit to the south beginning with Cebu, the place where Christianity was first introduced in the Philippines, and then Davao in Mindanao, Bacolod and Iloilo.

The pope's appeal to China today was the most dramatic development on his trip so far.

The pope praised China as a country rich in population, history and culture and assured Peking that the church would respect tradition and cultural values.

John Paul said the church "has no politcal or economic goals . . . and desires no privileges."

The bishop of Amoy, Juan Velasco, who was jailed and finally expelled from China in 1953, said in an interview here that China had about 3 million Catholics in 1949, but estimated that the number could have swelled to 6 million from population increase alone.

Churches were turned into factories during the Cultural Revolution and the church was allowed to exist only as an independent church with no allegiance to Rome.

The only link to the outside world that the Chinese Catholics have had was Manila-based Radio Veritas, which has broadcasts to the mainland in Chinese since 1978.

But the consecration of Michael Tien Fu as bishop of Peking in December 1979 and the opening of churches to worship gave renewed hopes to the Vatican that ties could be restored.

The pope must trend carefully over the issue of reestablishing relations with Peking because mainland China has indicated that the Vatican would have to break ties with Taiwan before it could resume authority over Chinese Catholics.

Taiwan sent the largest delegation of Asian church officials to the Philippines for John Paul's visit.

For this reason, afte his six-day tour of the Philippines, he will fly to the American territory of Guam for an overnight stop before proceeding to Japan in order not to overfly Taiwan.