Tags: Pope | Urges | End | Mideast | Wars | Terror

Pope Urges End to Mideast Wars, Terror

Sunday, 17 June 2007 12:00 AM

ASSISI, Italy -- Pope Benedict on Sunday made one of his strongest peace appeals, calling for an end to all wars and saying the people of the Middle East have had enough of "the horrors of combat, terrorism and blind violence."

The Pope made his appeal at the birthplace of Francis of Assisi, the saint who is a symbol of peace and also the Catholic Church's patron of animals and the environment.

"I consider it my duty to launch from here a pressing and heartfelt appeal for a stop to all armed conflicts that bloody the earth," he said after celebrating an outdoor mass in front of the pink stone basilica where the saint is buried in a crypt.

"May weapons be silenced and may hate give way to love everywhere. May offence give way to forgiveness and discord to unity," he said at the mid-point of a day-long visit to one of Christianity's most visited and venerated places.

It was Benedict's first visit to the hill town of Assisi, where his predecessor John Paul held three historic meetings with representatives of world religions, the last in 2002 after the September 11 attacks, to jointly repudiate terrorism and the concept of religion as a justification of violence.

Speaking to thousands of people in a small square in front of the basilica, which has been completely restored after a ceiling partially collapsed in a 1997 earthquake, the Pope said he heard the cry of those suffering because of war.

"Our thoughts turn in a particular way to the Holy Land, so loved by Francis, to Iraq, Lebanon and the whole Middle East," Benedict said.

HORROR AFTER HORROR

"The populations of those countries have known for too long the horrors of combat, of terrorism, of blind violence, of the illusion that force can resolve conflicts, of the refusal to listen to the reasons of other people and grant them justice," he said.

Dressed in green and white vestments, he called on the international community to promote "responsible and sincere dialogue ... to put an end to so much pain and give back life and dignity to persons, institutions and populations."

The purpose of the Pope's visit was to mark the 800th anniversary of what is known as the conversion of St Francis.

Francis, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, had lived a carefree life as a soldier and playboy until one day while praying before a crucifix in a ruined wayside chapel he heard a voice say "Go, Francis, and repair my house."

He later gave up all worldly possessions and formed a fraternity to help the poor. Over the centuries it would become one Christianity's most important religious orders.

Francis, who became known as "the little poor one of Assisi," died in 1226 and was declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church two years later. He is the saint perhaps most widely revered by non-Christians.

The Pope, who was later due to address young people, began his day by praying in front of the same crucifix that is said to have spoken to St Francis.

He also visited the so-called "upper basilica" decorated with Giotto's famous frescoes of the life of Saint Francis and prayed before the saint's tomb under the main altar.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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ASSISI, Italy -- Pope Benedict on Sunday made one of his strongest peace appeals, calling for an end to all wars and saying the people of the Middle East have had enough of "the horrors of combat, terrorism and blind violence." The Pope made his appeal at the birthplace...
Pope,Urges,End,Mideast,Wars,,Terror
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2007-00-17
Sunday, 17 June 2007 12:00 AM
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