10/14/2007, 00.00
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Pope appeals for the release of kidnapped priests and peace in Iraq

On the day marking the ninetieth anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, Benedict XVI renews Mary’s invitation to conversion and repeats that violence leads us nowhere.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – on the ninetieth anniversary of the Virgin’s apparition at Fatima, Benedict XVI launched a strong appeal for the release of two Iraqi priests kidnapped in Mosul, Iraq, and for peace throughout the region.  “Every day, news continues to pour in from Iraq, - he told the 40 thousand people present in Rome to recite the Angelus and the hundreds of thousands listening in a live link up from Fatima – grave reports of attacks and violence, which shake the conscience of all who care for peace in the region.  Among these reports – he added – I have learned today of the kidnapping of two good priests in Mosul, who are being threatened with death.  I appeal to their abductors to immediately release these two men of religion”. Reiterating that “violence cannot resolve conflicts” the pope concluded with a “heartfelt prayer that they may soon be freed and that all those who are suffering may soon have peace”.

The anniversary of Fatima was at the heart of Benedict XVI’s reflections before the recitation of the Marian prayer.  Our Lady of Fatima invited humanity to conversion; the pope noted that this appeal has also been at the centre of the Virgin’s more recent messages.

Inspired by today’s Gospel which tells of Jesus healing ten lepers, one of whom is “a Samaritan, and therefore a foreigner, who returns to thank Him”, the Pope underlined that in Christ’s teachings it is faith which saves man and that faith is expressed in gratitude, in not considering everything as our right but as a gift and that if the gift reached us from man or nature its origin is always God: “everything is a gift and grace”.

Once, he added, leprosy was considered a disease that needed purification, today “the leprosy that really deforms man and society” is represented by “pride and selfishness which generate indifference, hate and violence”. “This leprosy of the spirit which marks the face of humanity can only be cured by the God who is love.  By opening our hearts to God, by converting to him, we are inwardly healed of evil”.

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