Attacks in Israel Sadden Pope

Reminds Faithful of Days of Fasting and Prayer for Peace

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2001 ( John Paul II expressed grief and concern today over the suicide attacks that killed at least 25 and wounded more than 200 in Israel during the weekend.

The Holy Father also reminded the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square that today is the first day of Advent, the liturgical season of preparation for Christmas.

«Advent is synonymous with hope,» hope in God, who is incarnated at Christmas, the Pope said. He cited today´s liturgy which quoted the prophet Isaiah: «One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.»

«These words contain a promise of peace more urgent than ever for humanity and, in particular, for the Holy Land, from where even today, unfortunately, sad and worrying news reaches us,» the Holy Father lamented.

In the latest of the three weekend attacks, a powerful bomb ripped through a bus in Haifa today, killing at least 16 people and injuring about 35 others, CNN reported.

The attacks are the most tragic bloodbath since the Palestinian uprising began 14 months ago. The uprising has left 1,039 dead.

In face of this situation, the Pontiff proposed again, to «believers and […] men of good will,» to join the day of fasting and prayer for peace, which he called for Dec. 14, as well as the meeting of representatives of the world´s religions, which will be held in Assisi on Jan. 24.

The spirit of these initiatives is to help create «a more relaxed and mutually supportive climate in the world,» the Pope concluded.

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