This story is available at:

Benedict prays for end to Gaza bloodshed

Expressing his "grave worry" over the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip, Pope Benedict yesterday prayed that Israeli and Palestinian authorities will work to end the bloodshed in the region.

"I am following with grave worry the news about the grave deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip," Benedict said, addressing the faithful from his studio window overlooking St Peter's Square, AsiaNews reports.

Israel's latest offensive, mainly focusing on the town of Beit Hanoun, not far from the border, is one of the biggest since Israel's army and Jewish settlers pulled out of Gaza last year after 38 years of occupation, according to Reuters.

Speaking to crowd of 20,000 after Sunday's Angelus prayer, the Pope also called on "nations with particular responsibility in the region" to work to end the latest spate of violence in Gaza.

Pope Benedict expressed his "nearness to civilian people who are suffering the consequences of acts of violence".

"I ask you to join in my prayer, that the almighty and merciful God may enlighten the Israeli and Palestinian authorities ... so that they may undertake to stop the bloodshed, multiplying initiatives of humanitarian aid and encouraging the immediate resumption of direct, serious and concrete negotiations," he said.

Also in the Middle East, Reuters reports that pressure is growing on the Pope to use his upcoming trip to Turkey this month to rebuild badly strained ties between the Vatican and the Muslim world.

"The majority of Turkish society was very angry with his Regensburg (University) speech, but many of them will see this visit as a chance for the Pope to explain his own thoughts on Islam," said Cemal Usak, a Muslim activist in Turkey who has long been involved in inter-religious debate.

"I believe he can compensate for his faults on Islam during his visit."

Sheik Muhammad Dormuhammad, Secretary General of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, who was in Istanbul to attend a religious conference added that the Pope's visit "is a good chance to develop good relations".

However, while Fr Francois Yakan, the patriarchal vicar of the Chaldean Catholic Church, agreed that the visit would open up much-needed dialogue he warned: "Don't expect miracles here".

Meanwhile in Melbourne, Archbishop Denis Hart at a meeting of the Australian Intercultural Society emphasised the common faith in one God that unites Christians and Muslims.

"This common faith is the foundation of our relationship and characterises all our activities.

"Because we worship the same God in whom Abraham put his faith, we are duty bound to live together in unity of mind and heart. The One God requires us to live as one with each other," Archbishop Hart said.

Archbishop Hart also emphasised the importance of dialogue.

"People will look upon our harmony and mutual respect and be moved to say that God must have revealed himself if Muslims and Christians, who are different in many ways, can come close in bonds of affection and mutuality.

"Our closeness is a sign to a secularised world that the God of Abraham is alive and active," he said.

Pope: end Gaza violence and resume serious, concrete dialogue (Asia News, 5/11/06)
Pope worried about situation in Gaza (Houston Chronicle, 5/11/06)
Pressure on Pope to rebuild ties with Islam (The Australian, 6/11/06)
Meeting with the Australian Intercultural Society (Statement by Archbishop Denis Hart, 2/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Internationalis
Caritas Jerusalem in the village of Aboud (Caritas International)

New Gaza settlement tenders concern Caritas Jerusalem (CathNews, 8/9/06)
Biblical lamentations as Gaza descends into disaster (CathNews, 12/7/06)
Vatican official commends Israel withdrawal from Gaza (CathNews 26/8/05)
Caritas Australia provides assistance to Caritas Jerusalem (CathNews 18/4/02)


6 Nov 2006