Pope Pleads for an End to Strife in Moluccas

In Message to Bishop of Ambon

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed for an end to violence in the Molucca Islands of Indonesia, after a week of violence that left at least 37 dead.

The Pope sent a message to Bishop Canisius Mandagi of Ambon expressing grief over «the loss of numerous lives, grave injuries, and the pillaging and burning of houses, schools and churches.»

The telegram, sent on behalf of the Pope by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, adds that at «this time of suffering and grave anxiety,» John Paul II «wishes to assure the whole Christian community of his paternal affection and solidarity, and his heartfelt prayer that public order and peaceful relations between the various religious and social groups will be quickly restored.»

«His Holiness has prayed to God our merciful Father for the peace of those who have died and the comfort and consolation of all the suffering and those who mourn,» says the papal message, made public Saturday by the Vatican press office.

«To you as the pastor of the Catholic community, to the priests, the missionaries, the men and women religious, and to all the faithful, the Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of strength in the Lord,» the message concluded.

Bishop Mandagi has stated that the real reasons for the new outbreak of violence in the Moluccas are not religious but political. Yet there is fear that the whole area might plunge into a war between Muslims and Christians like the one three years ago that cost 5,000 lives.

Bishop Mandagi has called on the United Nations and the international community to intervene to end the violence.

About 87% of Indonesia’s population is Muslim, but Christians and Muslims live in roughly equal numbers in the Moluccas.

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