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Pope Laments World's Conflicts, Calamities

Pope Benedict XVI delivering his "Urbi et Orbi" blessing (AFP) April 8, 2007 -- Pope Benedict XVI today marked Easter Sunday with a wide-ranging speech on conflicts and "natural calamities" around the world.

"How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world," the pontiff lamented during the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" ("to the city and the world") blessing from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica. "Natural calamities and human tragedies that cause innumerable victims and enormous material destruction are not lacking."

"I am thinking of the scourge of hunger, of incurable diseases, of terrorism and kidnapping of people, of the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons," the pope said.

Benedict decried the "continual slaughter" in Iraq and the "growing unrest and instability" in Afghanistan.

"I look with apprehension at the conditions prevailing in several regions of Africa," he said.

The pope noted a dimming "prospect of peace" in Somalia; the "grievous crisis" in Zimbabwe; the "catastrophic, and sadly to say, underestimated, humanitarian situation" in Sudan and neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic, where hundreds of thousands have died and millions fled their homes since Darfur was beset by violence in early 2003; and "fears for the future of the Congolese democratic process and the reconstruction of [the Democratic Republic of the Congo]."

Benedict cited "signs of hope" in the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

But he tempered that comment with his assertion that "nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees" and "the paralysis of [Lebanon's] political institutions [that] threatens the role that the country is called to play in the Middle East and puts its future seriously in jeopardy."

(Reuters, AFP)

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