Papal Envoy Heading to Sudan's Troubled West

Concerned Over Tragedy Unfolding in Darfur Region

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 21, 2004 ( Concerned about the humanitarian crisis in western Sudan, John Paul II is sending a special envoy to the troubled Darfur region.

In sending Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum,» the Pope wishes to express «his closeness and solidarity» with the population, the council said in a statement sent to ZENIT.

«The Holy Father wants the voice of the peoples of Darfur to be heard and taken into consideration, and their fundamental human rights to be respected,» the note states.

Archbishop Cordes, accompanied by Monsignor Gianpietro Dal Toso, undersecretary of «Cor Unum,» was due to travel to Khartoum on Thursday, where they will meet with key Church representatives. These include Cardinal Zubeir Wako, archbishop of Khartoum, and Archbishop François Mamberti, papal nuncio in Sudan.

«With the help of the United Nations, Archbishop Cordes will travel» to the troubled area of Darfur, where it is increasingly difficult to travel because of the confrontations, and visit the refugee camps in Nyala, the note explained.

Since February 2003, the Darfur region has been the scene of fighting between two rebel groups — the Movement for Justice and Equality (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army-Movement (SLA-M) — and the regular Sudanese army.

SLA-M and JEM have risen in arms against Khartoum, accused of abandoning Darfur because the population is primarily black, and of financing the «Janjaweed» militias, Arab outlaws, who are active in western Sudan.

«Cor Unum,» responsible for promoting and organizing the charitable works of the Catholic Church, has already sent financial help to Darfur, on behalf of the Pope, through the U.S. High Commissioner for Refugees.

«Cor Unum» urged the public to respond to the joint appeal of Caritas International and «Action by Churches Together,» which have made an urgent appeal for $18 million to help the Sudanese.

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