08/17/2008, 00.00
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Pope: open humanitarian corridors immediately in Ossetia, and in the rest of Georgia

Benedict XVI also asks for the protection of minority rights in the area. The universality of salvation makes the Church "a house of welcome for all, the sign and instrument of communion for the entire human family", overcoming any temptation of "racism", "intolerance", "exclusion". An invitation to drive carefully on the streets, as an expression of respect for "the good of human life". Remembrance of Bolzano bishop Egger, who died last night.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - At today's Angelus, from the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI asked that "without further delay" there be opened "humanitarian corridors between the region of South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia, in such a way that the dead still abandoned may receive worthy burial, the wounded may receive adequate care, and those who wish to may find their loved ones again".

The pope is following "the situation in Georgia with attention and preoccupation". Since August 7, there has been fighting between Georgian troops and the Russian army and air force, causing the death of thousands of people and making over 100,000 refugees. Benedict XVI expressed his closeness to the victims of the conflict, and added: "As I raise a special prayer of intercession for the deceased, and express sincere condolences to all those who are in mourning, I appeal that the grave difficulties of the refugees be alleviated with generosity, especially for the women and children, who lack even what they need to survive".

In addition to the opening of humanitarian corridors, the pontiff - with an eye to the populations of Ossetia and Abkhazia - also asked that "the ethnic minorities involved in the conflict be guaranteed safety, and those fundamental rights that can never be trampled upon". Finally, the pope expressed his hope that "the current cease-fire, reached thanks to the contribution of the European Union, may be reinforced and transformed into stable peace, while I invite the international community to continue offering its support for the establishment of a lasting solution through dialogue and common good will".

In his reflection before the Angelus, he commented on the liturgy of the 20th Sunday in ordinary time, in which "the universality of salvation" is emphasized in various ways: "The Word of God thus offers us the opportunity to reflect on the universality of the mission of the Church, made up of peoples of every race and culture. This is the origin of the great responsibility of the ecclesial community, which is called to be a house of welcome for all, the sign and instrument of communion for the entire human family".

The pope said that "it is important, above all in our time, that every Christian community deepen this awareness more and more, in part for the sake of helping civil society to overcome any temptation of racism, intolerance, and exclusion, and to organize itself with decisions respectful of the dignity of every human being! One of the great achievements of humanity is, in fact, precisely the overcoming of racism. Unfortunately, however, there are worrying new signs of this in various countries, often connected to social and economic problems, which nonetheless can never justify disrespect and racial discrimination. Let us pray that respect for every person may increase everywhere, together with the responsible awareness that only in the reciprocal welcome of all is it possible to build a world marked by authentic justice and true peace".

Benedict XVI then dedicated a thought - and a prayer intention - to all the victims of vehicles or accidents in recent days (especially in Italy). "We must not", the pontiff said, "grow accustomed to this sad reality! Human life is too valuable, and it is unfit for man to die or be crippled by causes that, in most cases, could be avoided. A greater sense of responsibility is certainly necessary. Above all on the part of drivers, because accidents are often due to excessive speed and imprudent behavior. Driving a vehicle on the public roads requires a moral sense and a civic sense. In promoting the latter of these, a constant effort of prevention is indispensable, the vigilance and deterrence on the part of the competent authorities. As the Church, in fact, we feel ourselves directly involved on the ethical level: Christians first of all must make a personal examination of conscience of their own conduct as drivers; the communities should moreover educate all to consider driving as an area in which to defend life and concretely exercise love of neighbor".

One last thought went to the bishop of Bolzano, Wilhelm Egger, who died yesterday evening. The bishop of Bolzano, 68, had welcomed the pope to Brixen, in the Alto Adige, for his vacation in the previous weeks (see photo).

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