Pope Rebukes Bush for the continuing slaughter in Iraq
Times Online
Richard Owen in Rome
April 9, 2007

In an implicit rebuke to Tony Blair and President Bush, the Pope lamented yesterday that "nothing positive" was coming from Iraq.

The country had been "torn apart by continual slaughter", he said, while in Afghanistan there was growing unrest and instability. "How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world," he told the tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter's Square to here his traditional Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World) Easter address. "Peace is sorely needed."

Pope Benedict XVI's shimmering gold vestments contrasted with his list of world tragedies. He said that he was thinking of "the scourge of hunger, of incurable disease" and of "terrorism and kidnapping of people, of the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion, of contempt for life, of the violation of human rights and the exploitation of persons".

The reference to kidnapping came amid reports that the Taleban had killed the Afghan interpreter of Daniele Mastrogiacomo, the Italian journalist released by kidnappers last month.

President Karzai had freed five senior Taleban members to secure Mastrogiacomo's release. The Taleban beheaded Mastrogiacomo's driver and held his interpreter to try to secure the release of more of prisoners, but President Karzai ruled out any further releases.

The Pope, who turns 80 this month, said that in the Middle East "besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees".

The Vatican has been a consistent opponent of the invasion of Iraq, with the late Pope John Paul II urging Mr Blair to avert the war early on.

Pope Benedict added that he deplored the catastrophic situation in Darfur and the violence in Congo, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

"I look with apprehension at the conditions prevailing in several regions of Africa," he said.

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