Murder of Italian Government Adviser Deplored

Economist Helped Draw Up Labor Reform Plan

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2002 ( John Paul II condemned all «senseless violence» when deploring the murder of an Italian economist and government adviser.

«My thoughts go to professor Marco Biagi, brutally murdered last night in Bologna, outside his home, when he returned from work,» the Holy Father said at the end of today´s general audience.

«While I express my spiritual closeness to his relatives at this tragic time of grief, I pray to the Lord for the repose of the soul of the deceased economist,» the Pope added.

Biagi was slain at his front door by two gunmen on a motorscooter, authorities said. Biagi had just returned home on his bicycle. The economist was one of the architects of a government labor-reform plan.

«Firmly deploring this new manifestation of senseless violence,» the Pope said, «I hope that a climate of understanding among the social sides will be affirmed in the beloved Italian nation, for a peaceful solution to the current problems.»

Italian news reports said an anonymous caller claiming to be a member of the Red Brigades had telephoned a Bologna newspaper to say the group was behind the shooting. The group carried out attacks that killed hundreds during the 1970s and 1980s.

Interior Minister Claudio Scajola blamed the murder on extremists out to destabilize democracy.

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