09/30/2007, 00.00
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Pope appeals for peace in Myanmar and Korea

Benedict XVI says he feels close to the “dear people” of Burma, calling on the entire Church to do the same. He expresses hope for talks between the two Koreas set to begin in Beijing, and makes an appeal on behalf of sub-Saharan Africa where people are enduring hunger caused by political and economic conflicts as well as natural disasters.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI made an appeal today at the end of the Angelus prayer for a “peaceful solution” to the “dramatic events” in Myanmar and for a fruitful dialogue between the two Koreas. “I follow with great trepidation the dramatic events of the last few days in Myanmar and wish to stress my spiritual closeness to that dear people at a time when it is going through such a painful trial,” the Pontiff said. “As I reassure you of my intense and concerned prayer I urge the whole Church to do the same, truly hopeful that a peaceful solution [to the crisis] can be found for the good of the country.” 

Frustrated by economic crisis, corruption and the lack of freedom, and inspired by the example of Buddhist monks, the people of Myanmar have challenged the military junta in demonstrations and protests for over a month. In the last few days the government has banned every demonstration and dispersed every gathering; it has not hesitated from firing on crowds and raiding monasteries, killing at least 13 people.

Yesterday United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in the country in an attempt to stop the repression and persuade the junta to start a dialogue with the population and pro-democracy groups.

The Burmese Church (600,000 members out of a population of almost 50 million) launched a prayer campaign for the good of the people and for national reconciliation. Burmese bishops have received the backing of many Bishops’ Conferences of Asia. And young Catholics, both laity and priests, have taken part in the demonstrations, showing their solidarity to Buddhist monks.

The Pope called on people to also pray for “the situation in the Korean Peninsula where some important developments in the dialogue between the two Koreas is giving us hope that the efforts of reconciliation underway may grow stronger in favour and to the benefit of stability and peace of the entire region.”

Benedict XVI’s appeal comes at a time when the six-nation talks in Beijing are starting up again involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. They had been halted by Pyongyang’s refusal to freeze its nuclear programme. For the United States the Beijing meetings are a “last chance” for the process to succeed. In order to get the North Koreans to reject nuclear escalation, the Americans and the South Koreans have pledged to provide food aid and energy for the people of North Korea, which has been suffering hunger as a result of natural disasters and regime neglect.

Benedict XVI also mentioned the situation in sub-Saharan Africa, “affected these days by serious flooding,” adding that “we cannot forget many other humanitarian emergencies in different regions of the world where conflict over political and economic power is exacerbating already seriously degraded environments.”

With this in mind the Pope gave today’s Gospel reading about the (nameless) rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) a “social twist.”

“The rich man,” the Pope said, “represents the unfair use of wealth for unbridled and selfish luxury by people who only think about their own satisfaction unconcerned by the beggar standing at their door. By contrast, the poor represents those only God takes care; unlike the rich man, the poor man has a name, Lazarus, short for Eleazar, ‘the one God has helped’.”

Benedict XVI quoted extensively from Populorum Progressio, Paul VI’s encyclical which looked forward to “building a human community where men can live truly human lives . . . where the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table" (n. 47). That encyclical, the Pontiff said, points out that “many situations of misery come ‘from servitude to other men or to natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily’ (ibid.).”

Quoting again from Pope Montini’s 40-year-old document, the Holy Father concluded his address by saying that the “hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance (n. 3).With this mind, "no one can say they did not know what path to follow.”

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