Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The sadness of the pope over the dramatic reality in the Middle East, with the clash in the Gaza Strip and the kidnapping of the bishop of Mosul - for which he had already expressed his sadness on the day following the kidnapping - was expressed today at the recitation of the Angelus, when, addressing himself to the 40,000 people present in Saint Peter's square, Benedict XVI launched two appeals dedicated to the heartrending situation of the region.
"With profound sadness", he said after the recitation of the Marian prayer, "I follow the dramatic affair of the kidnapping of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul in Iraq. I unite myself", he added, "to the appeal of the patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and of his collaborators, that the beloved archbishop, who is in precarious health, may be freed quickly".
"At the same time, I raise my prayer of intercession", he continued, "on behalf of the souls of the three young men who were with him at the moment of the kidnapping and were killed. I express, moreover, my closeness to the entire Church in Iraq, and in particular to the Chaldean Church, struck a harsh blow once again, while encouraging the pastors and all the faithful to be strong and firm in hope. May the efforts be multiplied of those who control the fate of the dear Iraqi people, so that through the efforts and wisdom of all they may recover peace and security, and may not be denied the future that is rightfully theirs".
After Iraq, the Holy Land. "Unfortunately", the pope said, "in recent days the tension between Israel and the Gaza Strip has reached rather serious levels. I renew my urgent appeal to the authorities, both Israeli and Palestinian, that this spiral of violence be stopped, unilaterally, without conditions: only by demonstrating an absolute respect for human life, even that of the enemy, can there be hope of giving a future of peace and coexistence to the younger generations of those peoples that both have their roots in the Holy Land".
"I invite the whole Church", he concluded, "to raise prayers to the Almighty for peace in the land of Jesus, and to show attentive and active solidarity toward both populations, Israeli and Palestinian".