Pope calls for Gaza peace talks, deplores violence in Congo
07 Jan 2009
VATICAN CITY: January 7, 2009. (CNS) As fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, Pope Benedict XVI urged Israelis and Palestinians to end the violent, armed clashes and start peace talks.
"Hatred and the rejection of dialogue bring nothing but war," he said after reciting the Angelus Jan. 6 with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.
"Today I would like to encourage the initiatives and efforts of all those who, having a heart of peace, are trying to help Israelis and Palestinians agree to sit down together and talk," he said.
He prayed God would help sustain the dedicated efforts of these "courageous builders of peace."
The pope also appealed for an end to the "inhumane brutality" unfolding in eastern Congo where some 20 children were abducted over the Christmas period by armed bandits who launched attacks against villages, leaving many people dead or injured.
Caritas Congo reported Dec. 29 that the children were abducted as child soldiers for the Lord's Resistance Army -- a Ugandan rebel group. Caritas Congo is the local affiliate of the international Catholic umbrella group Caritas Internationalis.
Caritas said violence in the region flared in late December leaving hundreds of people dead. It said 50 bodies were found in the courtyard of a Catholic church in Doruma on Christmas morning.
The pope urged those responsible for such "inhumane brutality to give the (kidnapped) children back to their families" so that the future of these young people may be safe and fruitful.
The pope made the appeals on the feast of the Epiphany, which is a national holiday in Italy and is largely dedicated to children.
He said he was praying for the world's children, especially those experiencing a troubled childhood.
The violence against children worldwide "appears even more appalling considering that 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child," he said.
He called on world leaders to renew their promises to defend, safeguard and foster the development of the world's children.
Pope Benedict noted that the Epiphany was dedicated to the Holy Childhood Association, a children-supported missionary organization that works in more than 100 countries. He thanked young people for their support of works that are designed to aid the world's needy.