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Pope prays for Iraq hostages

Pope John Paul has issued a new condemnation of violence and human rights abuses, after a series of Vatican denunciations of American treatment of prisoners in Iraq.

He told Italian bishops in a section of his speech touching on Iraq: "Terrorism, acts of war, violations of human rights (have) made the international situation so difficult and dangerous and weigh heavy on our hearts."

The pope also told the bishops he was praying for the release of all hostages in Iraq and all those risking their lives there. An Italian soldier was killed in Iraq this week and three Italians are still being held hostage.

In recent weeks Vatican figures have weighed in with strong criticism of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

The timing of the pope's words was significant because he will receive George W. Bush when the US president visits Rome on 4 June.

Last week, the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, said the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers represented a bigger blow for the United States than the September 11 attacks.

Pope prays for Iraq hostages (Financial Times 20/5/04)

Pope prays for hostages in Iraq and those who die and risk lives on duty ( 20/5/04)

21 May 2004