Benedict XVI Reacts in Wake of Bolivian Violence

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2007 ( Benedict XVI appealed for “frank and respectful dialogue” in Bolivia following the outbreak of violence in the city of Cochabamba.

The Holy Father made his appeal in a telegram sent in his name by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, to Cardinal Julio Terrazas, archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

Coca growers in Cochabamba have taken to the streets to call for the resignation of their provincial governor, Manfred Reyes, after he proposed a referendum that would give his state greater autonomy from the leftist government of President Evo Morales.

These protests turned violent Thursday when the governor organized a counter demonstration, and the two groups clashed. The conflict left two dead and hundreds wounded.

In the telegram, Benedict XVI expressed his sadness over the incidents “as well as his special closeness to the pastors and all those making efforts to maintain the citizenry’s harmony and peaceful coexistence, by engaging in frank and respectful dialogue to resolve eventual discrepancies.”

The Holy Father prayed that the Lord will “give all a heart full of fraternity and simplicity so that violence is transformed into cooperation and the common good is truly promoted.”

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