A Plea for Innocent Lives in Afghanistan and Holy Land

Pope Asks International Community to Help Refugees

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II made a special plea today for the peoples caught up in conflicts in Afghanistan and the Holy Land.

Before praying the midday Angelus with the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square, the Holy Father entrusted the people of Afghanistan to «the maternal protection of the Most Holy Virgin.»

«May innocent lives be spared, and may the international community give timely and effective help to so many refugees, exposed to privations of all kinds as the inclement season approaches,» the Pope implored.

Caritas experts in Afghanistan estimate that the number of people at risk and in dire need of food might have risen from 5.5 million to 7.5 million in recent weeks. Those especially at risk are children and pregnant women.

John Paul II also remembered «those who continue to suffer violence and death in the Holy Land, particularly in the Holy Places, so dear to the Christian faith.»

Violence escalated dramatically in the Middle East after the Oct. 17 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi by a radical commando of Palestine´s Popular Liberation Front. In response, the Israeli army occupied five autonomous Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

«May Mary, Queen of Peace, help all to lay down their arms and finally begin resolutely on the path toward a just and lasting peace,» the Pope concluded.

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