|Vatican||POPE OFFERS SOLIDARITY DURING STALLED NEGOTIATIONS WITH KIDNAPPERS|
Pope John Paul II devoted time during his weekly general audience to express solidarity with people in the southern Philippines where a Muslim extremist group has reportedly threatened to kill Christian hostages.
The pope's Wednesday statement at the Vatican, issued by the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, prayed for 'peaceful solutions to the existing problems' in the region.
"I express my closeness and my solidarity with the families who suffer because of this situation," the message continued. The kidnapping of more than 30 schoolchildren, Claretian Father Rhoel Gallardo, a Claret School principal and other school personnel in Basilan on 20 March came against the backdrop of armed clashes between government and Islamic rebel forces.