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Monday, August 07, 2006

AUG 7, 2006: Pope Benedict XVI calls for immediate ceasfire

Pope says he's disappointed about ignored Middle East peace calls

By Catholic News Service,

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI renewed his appeal for peace in the Middle East and said he was deeply disappointed that calls for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon had been ignored.

Peace is both a gift of God and the product of political commitment, and all people of good will have a duty to work for an end to hostilities, the pope said at a Sunday blessing Aug. 6.

Several hundred pilgrims applauded the pope as he spoke from the balcony of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome. In a talk that marked the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the pope said Christ's salvation was sorely needed in a world threatened by the "shadows of evil," including fratricidal conflict in the Middle East.

"We well know that peace is first of all a gift of God, to implore with insistence in prayer, but at this moment I also want to recall that peace is the task of all people of good will. Let no one shrink from this duty!" he said.

"Faced with the bitter fact that up to now the calls for an immediate cease-fire in that martyred region have been disregarded, I feel impelled to renew my pressing appeal to that effect, asking everyone to offer their real contribution to the construction of a just and lasting peace," he said.

Pope Benedict donated two ambulances and emergency medical supplies to Caritas Lebanon; the U.N.'s World Food Program announced the papal gifts were placed on a cargo ship and left the port of Brindisi, Italy, Aug. 7. The ship was supposed to go to Cyprus to take on more supplies, then sail to Beirut.

On Aug. 7, fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia continued to escalate. Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon since July 12 had killed nearly 1,000 people -- mostly civilians -- and destroyed roads and bridges, while Hezbollah rocket attacks against northern Israel had killed more than 90 people, including at least 36 civilians.

Pope Benedict, who has urged an immediate end to the fighting since it began, explained the reasons for his appeals in an interview Aug. 5 with four German-language media. The interview was to be broadcast Aug. 13, but the Vatican made available a transcript of the pope's comments on the Middle East.

The pope said the Vatican was motivated in its actions not by political considerations but by the conviction that "war is the worst solution for everyone. It brings nothing of good for anyone, not even for the apparent victors. We know this well in Europe, after the two world wars."

"What everyone needs is peace. There are moral forces ready to help people understand that the only solution is that we must live together," he said.

He said the Vatican's actions and his own appeals were designed to mobilize all the potential forces of peace.

"Politicians must find a way to make this happen as quickly as possible and above all in a lasting manner," he said.

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