AP 06/16 11:01 EDT V0014

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A Vatican panel of scientists has warned against unchecked population growth, leading to speculation that Pope John Paul II might modify his position on contraception and abortion.

But the Vatican's radio network has distanced the pope from the report by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and urged listeners to keep in mind that the prestigious academy "is made up of scientists from around the world, who are not necessarily Catholic."

The report, released last Friday, made no specific recommendations on how to limit population growth and did not contradict Roman Catholic teachings against abortion and contraception.

But it came as the Holy See and the United States head toward a confrontation over population growth at a U.N. conference in Cairo, Egypt, in September. The pope has criticized the U.S. administration for lobbying for more liberal abortion-rights language in the conference statement.

Vatican Radio responded to the academy report in a commentary on Saturday. "Instead of seeing contradictions and a change of mind on the part of the Holy See on the delicate problem of demographic development, one at least should note that in the positions of the Holy See and the pope himself ........ there isn't any lack of awareness of the data about the problem."

The academy's reports and forums help the Vatican and the pope to understand various scientific issues.

"Science can say great things about man, but it certainly doesn't have the last word," Vatican Radio said.