Libyan Bishop Asks Muslims for Protection

Nuns Barricaded in Their Home

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ROME, FEB. 25, 2011 ( The apostolic vicar who cares for Libya’s few thousand Catholics has approached Muslims to ask for protection during the unrest in the country.

Bishop Giovanni Martinelli of Tripoli affirmed that the attempt to squelch the protests seeking to oust Moammar Gadhafi has been very strong, and the «blood that runs here on the streets of Libya impedes a general reconciliation.»

The 69-year-old Franciscan, a native of El Khadra, spoke with Italian station Radio 24 on Monday about the people’s desire «for more democracy» and the youths’ hopes «to enjoy the goods of the country.»

In an interview Wednesday with Italy’s «La Stampa,» he compared the revolution wave to that of 1968, saying youth are angry and pointing to the «difficulty of finding a house and of creating a family.»

Given the bloody repression, Bishop Martinelli explained, «[W]e entered into contact with the Red Crescent and other Muslim organizations to appeal for protection of the churches, of the convents, of our faithful and of the sisters who work in the hospitals.»

According to 2005 statistics, Libya is home to some 70,000 Catholics and just eight priests and 30 women religious.

Three of those nuns are Franciscans who work at the Caritas center, some 10 kilometers (six miles) from Tripoli, where protests began again today, despite gunfire from Gadhafi supporters.

The Caritas center is closed to the public for now. «We are barricaded at home, as we were told, and we cannot reach the center where there are migrants that we receive,» said Sister Sherly Joseph.

The native of India affirmed that she and the others are safe and declined to comment on what is going on in Libya, for her own safety. In any case, she affirmed her commitment to those she serves in Libya. «If we live,» she said, «we will live together; if we must die, we will die together.»

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