Pope sends envoy to Afghan refugees
Pope John Paul II on Thursday appealed to the world for aid for thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing US-led military strikes, and sent an envoy to visit refugee camps in Pakistan.
"The sufferings of countless men, women and children cry out for practical relief," the pope said in a message to Pakistan's Catholic bishops. "In particular, the painful situation of the many refuges call for immediate efforts on the part of all those who are in a position to help."
The pope's message coincided with the departure from the Vatican of Pakistan-bound German Archbishop Josef Cordes, who heads the pontifical council coordinating the Church's global aid activities.
Archbishop Cordes, who left Rome on Thursday for Islamabad, planned to meet President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday, as well as the minister for religious minorities and aid agency officials. He was also to visit a refugee camp in Peshawar.
Meanwhile Caritas International has made an appeal for $A21.6 million in order to help the two million Afghan refugees living in camps in Pakistan.
Vatican Radio reported that Caritas has appealed to its member organisations in 154 countries to collect funds to counter the humanitarian crisis.
Caritas stressed the gravity of the emergency, especially with winter approaching. It noted that the situation in Afghanistan was already precarious even before the British-US bombings.
Caritas will also use the funds to offer food and health care to people in Afghanistan, in cooperation with aid agencies already working in the country.