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Pope Benedict XVI Calls for Mideast Cease-fire

Benedict XVI Calls for Mideast Cease-fire
Expresses Spiritual Closeness to Defenseless Civilians

LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI urgently appealed for a cease-fire in the Middle East today, as his request that it be a day of penance and prayer for peace is being fulfilled worldwide.

The Holy Father also renewed his request for humanitarian aid to be sent to the affected peoples and that negotiations get underway with the help of the international community.

The Pope's appeal was heard by thousands who gathered to pray the Angelus in Les Combes, in the Aosta Valley, where he is vacationing until Friday.

Before reciting the Angelus, the Pontiff addressed "the parties in conflict" and urged them "to adopt a cease-fire immediately and allow humanitarian aid to be sent, so that, with the support of the international community, ways will be found to begin negotiations."

In a communiqué issued by the Holy See on Thursday, Benedict XVI convoked a day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East, which has been supported not only by Catholic communities worldwide, but also by the ecumenical community.

In today's address, the Pope reaffirmed the "right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, the right of Israelis to live in peace in their state, and the right of Palestinians to a free and sovereign homeland."

The Holy Father expressed his closeness to the "defenseless civilian populations, unjustly stricken in a conflict in which they are no more than victims: both those of Galilee, obliged to live in shelters, as well as the great multitude of Lebanese, who once more, see their country destroyed, and have to leave everything behind to try to save themselves in another place."

Prayer

The Pontiff said "a sorrowful prayer so that the aspiration to peace of the great majority of peoples may soon be realized, thanks to the common commitment of those responsible."

The Pope also appealed to "all charitable organizations to manifest in a practical manner common solidarity with those populations."

Benedict XVI took leave of the faithful appealing for prayers "so that the beloved peoples of the Middle East are able to abandon the path of armed confrontation and build, with boldness and dialogue, a just and lasting peace."

This was the last Angelus the Holy Father will lead during his holiday in the Alps.

Next Sunday the Angelus will be recited from the papal summer residence Castel Gandolfo, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Rome.

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