Togolese Catholics Grateful for Pope's Words

African Country Hit by Violence After Elections

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LOMÉ, Togo, MAY 2, 2005 ( Catholics of Togo thanked Benedict XVI for his address on Sunday in which he appealed for harmony and peace in their country.

Violence broke out in the west African country after the April 24 elections, in which the opposition insisted there were irregularities in the voting for Faure Nasingbe, who was declared the winner with 60% of the vote.

Street protests erupted April 26, which left some 100 people dead, according to the opposition.

«These days I find myself thinking often of all people who are suffering due to wars, illness and poverty,» said the Pope when appearing Sunday at the window of the papal apartment to pray the Regina Caeli.

«In particular, today I am close to the beloved peoples of Togo, distressed by painful internal struggles. For all these nations I implore the gift of harmony and peace,» added the Holy Father.

Archbishop Pierre Nguyên Van Tot, the apostolic nuncio in Togo, said on Vatican Radio that the three Togolese television channels broadcast the Holy Father’s address.

«The people have received this message with much gratitude. It is a sign of concern on the part of the Church to help the suffering population,» the nuncio said.

About 27% of Togo’s 5.6 million people are Catholic.

The nuncio explained that at present «the situation is calmer. The neighboring countries are trying to help the two sides in the struggle to unite to form a government of national unity. If this solution is achieved, I think the people will breathe more easily.»

The apostolic nuncio added that in these days some 8,000 Togolese have fled to neighboring Benin, to avoid the violence.

«Tomorrow I will go with the secretary of the nunciature and other people to visit these refugees,» he said. «In general, they first arrive at the border’s parish — a Catholic parish — where they are well looked after, while awaiting to be transferred to a camp located about 50 kilometers away.»

«The national Caritas organization of Benin has mobilized with the help of the United States Caritas [Catholic Relief Services],» said Archbishop Nguyên. «Thanks to the nunciature, we also receive aid from the faithful. Tomorrow we will take donations in cash and provisions to give them some relief and above all to show our solidarity.»

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