Pope Empathizes With Those at Risk for Iraq

Cites Captives in Particular

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his closeness to those who risk their lives for the reconstruction of Iraq, in particular, those who are being held captive.

«Terrorism, acts of war, violations of human rights which make the international situation so difficult and dangerous, weigh very heavily on our hearts,» the Pope said today when receiving the general assembly of the Italian episcopal conference in the Vatican.

«I continue to unite myself to your prayer, in particular, for those who are kidnapped in Iraq, for those who risk their lives, and for those who lose it in carrying out their duty,» the Holy Father added.

Italy continues in the dark in regard to the fate of three private security agents, employees of U.S. firms, who were kidnapped last month. A fourth, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, was slain by his captors.

In the opening address of the episcopate’s plenary assembly on Monday, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the bishops’ conference, deplored «the horrible tortures and humiliations to which many Iraqi prisoners were subjected,» and described as «horrific the decapitation on television of an American civilian.»

«What is imperative, therefore, is a clear and obvious change so that the situation will not get out of hand and that a solution might be progressively worked out that will allow for Iraq’s reconstruction and independence,» the cardinal said.

He added: «It is profoundly desirable, therefore, that appropriate support be given […] and that the work recently undertaken by the U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, be successful.»

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