Pope supports Iraqi bishops' call for fasting, prayer for peace

Pope Benedict XVI has called for two days of fasting and prayer for peace in Iraq, saying the world should stop to remember "this tormented country".

Catholic News Service reports that the pope, noting an appeal by the Iraq bishops to "all believers and people of good will", has encouraged Catholics to pray and fast 3-4 April for peace in Iraq and in the entire world.

The popes made his remarks during an Angelus talk on the same day at least 50 people were killed in worsening sectarian violence in Iraq.

"This is an important appeal that touches our hearts, for me as well, and therefore I invite everyone to join in the initiative of our brothers in this tormented country," the pope said.

Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq, said the two-day fast proposed by the Christian community is also welcomed by Muslims in Iraq.

"Prayer and fasting are the only ways left to make peace in the Iraqi family. All the other ways have been closed off by special interests," the patriarch told the Rome-based missionary news agency AsiaNews.

"How many dead, how many murders every day. Every day hundreds of people are killed. We cannot go on like this," he said.

Patriarch Delly said the greatest need in Iraq was security.

"All countries help us by offering food and other items, but what we need is peace and security. At this point, every time we go out of our homes we don't know if we'll come back alive or dead," he said.

International observers said the fighting in Iraq had entered a deadlier phase in recent weeks, as violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims increased.

According to the International Organisation for Migration and the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, the violence has provoked a significant increase in population displacement in the past few weeks, with 30,000 to 36,000 people fleeing their homes in mixed Shiite and Sunni areas.

More than 1 million people are now displaced in Iraq, migration officials said.

Pope supports Iraqi bishops' call for fasting, prayer for peace (Catholic News Service 3/4/06)

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4 Apr 2006