VATICAN CITY, JULY 26, 2004 ( John Paul II's special envoy to Sudan insisted that the country's authorities and the international community must guarantee aid to displaced peoples, especially those in the troubled Darfur region.

Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," made his appeal at the conclusion of his visit, which included stops at refugee camps in the western region near Chad. The visit began last Thursday.

"At the end of his visit, the Holy Father's envoy wishes to reaffirm, in line with what the Holy See has indicated, that it is necessary that the Sudanese authorities, in collaboration with the international community, guarantee assistance and safe return to their villages to all those who have remained deprived of everything," Archbishop Cordes said in a statement sent to ZENIT today.

These people, the archbishop added, "have been obliged to flee and live in conditions unworthy of man."

"The Catholic Church, through the local episcopal conference, the Caritas network, and other Christian agencies, makes its ample and specific contribution to support all those who in over 20 years of conflict have had to leave their homes," he wrote.

The president of the pontifical council added that "with the contribution of all the peoples of the country, a better future for Sudan can be constructed."

"Unfortunately, the war in Sudan has been neglected and ignored by public opinion for too long," he lamented. "Finally, the world is now following with attention what is happening in this country. Those leaders who inspire international policy have discovered their duty to look beyond their own interests."

At the same time, the papal envoy recalled the request for prayer John Paul II made on Sunday "for our brothers and sisters of Africa, on whom I invoke Mary's maternal protection."

During his visit to Sudan, Archbishop Cordes met with Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum; with Moses Machar, vice president of the republic; and with the vice governor of southern Darfur.

In addition to visiting poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Khartoum, in which displaced people are living after 10 years of war with the south, Archbishop Cordes visited the Kalma refugee camp, on the outskirts of Nyala, in the Darfur region.

There the archbishop met representatives of Catholic aid agencies who were preparing, along with other Christian agencies, a $17 million aid program.

Archbishop Cordes said it was "impossible to describe" the conditions of thousands upon thousands of people living in the camp. In Kalma, there are about 10,000 people "who camp out in the desert under straw tents and plastic sheets," he said.

"The trip was given wide coverage by the local Arab media," the archbishop added.

"The Church in Sudan and government leaders have repeatedly expressed their sincere gratitude to the Holy Father for his concern for the African country and for all those who are suffering," the prelate concluded.

Violence broke out in Darfur some 18 months ago when two rebel groups of African tribes rose in arms, disputing with Arab farmers over the possession of lands and natural resources.

Subsequently, Arab militias known as "Janjaweed," or "men on horseback," began a deadly campaign to evict the black Africans.

Some 30,000 people, the majority black Africans, have been killed, and more than 1 million have had to flee their homes. About 160,000 have gone to Chad. At least 2.2 million are in need of urgent medical care and food, officials said.