Benedict XVI Calls for Condemnation of Violence

Again Urges a Ceasefire in Gaza

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2009 ( Violence — whatever its source and form — must be condemned, Benedict XVI is affirming.

The Pope said this today in the context of mentioning the war in the Gaza Strip, during a traditional annual address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 177 nations.

In his French-language address, the Pontiff once again took the opportunity to condemn the violence in the Middle East, something he has already done on repeated occasions in recent days.

«The birth of Christ in the lowly stable of Bethlehem leads us naturally to think of the situation in the Middle East and, in the first place, in the Holy Land, where, in these days, we have witnessed a renewed outbreak of violence provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian population,» he said.

Benedict XVI lamented that the situation «further complicates» the quest for a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, «something fervently desired by many of them and by the whole world.»

He affirmed: «Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned. I express my hope that, with the decisive commitment of the international community, the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip will be re-established — an indispensable condition for restoring acceptable living conditions to the population — and that negotiations for peace will resume, with the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms.»

The Pope called for elected leaders that will «guide their people toward the difficult yet indispensable reconciliation.»

But this, he contended, will require «the adoption of a global approach to the problems of these countries, with respect for the legitimate aspirations and interests of all parties.»

Regarding neighboring regions, the Holy Father also urged «wholehearted support» for dialogue between Israel and Syria, and the strengthening of institutions in Lebanon.

«To the Iraqis,» he said, «who are preparing again to take full control of their future, I offer a particular word of encouragement to turn the page and to look forward in order to rebuild without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic group or religion.»

And regarding Iran, the Pope called for «tireless efforts […] to seek a negotiated solution to the controversy concerning the nation’s nuclear program, through a mechanism capable of satisfying the legitimate demands of the country and of the international community.»

Children in Africa

Mentioning another region plagued by conflict, Benedict XVI turned his attention to Africa, speaking of his upcoming trip to the continent, «which I have so greatly desired.»

In this context, he raised his voice in defense of children, saying that 20 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, «they remain very vulnerable.»

«Many children have the tragic experience of being refugees and displaced persons in Somalia, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo,» the Bishop of Rome lamented. «There are waves of migration involving millions of persons in need of humanitarian assistance and who above all have been deprived of their elementary rights and offended in their dignity. I ask political leaders on the national and international levels to take every measure necessary to resolve the current conflicts and to put an end to the injustices which caused them.»

The Pope specifically mentioned particular challenges in some African states, including Somalia and Zimbabwe. And he affirmed that the Holy See «follows with special attention the continent of Africa,» recognizing with satisfaction that it established diplomatic relations with another African nation in 2008, Botswana.

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