Benedict XVI Urges Protection of Refugees

Says Welcoming Them Is Evangelical Love

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2007 ( Benedict XVI is asking countries to offer hospitality to refugees, a day after the United Nations called 2006 one of the worst years ever for these people.

The Pope made his appeal today at the end of the general audience. The United Nations recognizes today as the World Day of the Refugee.

The Holy Father said he hoped this U.N. initiative would serve “to ensure that public opinion does not lose sight of those who have been obliged to abandon their countries in the face of a real danger to their lives.”

He added: “Welcoming refugees and giving them hospitality is for everyone a vital gesture of human solidarity, in order to help them feel less isolated by intolerance and disinterest.

“For Christians, moreover, it is a concrete way to express evangelical love.”

Benedict XVI expressed his desire that “our brothers and sisters who suffer will be guaranteed exile and the recognition of their rights,” and he invited “the leaders of all nations to offer protection to those who find themselves in need.”

On Tuesday, a United Nations organization released a report, “2006 Global Trends,” saying that the number of refugees under its mandate rose by 14% last year, reaching some 10 million people. This is the largest number since 2002, and is a result mostly of the conflict in Iraq.

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