The Pope made his plea today when he addressed the crowds that gathered in St. Peter's Square for the midday Angelus. The occasion was the approaching end of the month of Ramadan, which has seen widespread violence in Iraq.
Eid al-Fitr, the celebration of the end of the month of prayer and fasting, will be observed on Monday by Sunni Muslims and on Tuesday by the Shiites.
"Contrasting dramatically with this festive atmosphere," the Pope said after praying the Angelus, "is the news that comes from Iraq on the most serious situation of insecurity and cruel violence to which very many innocent people are exposed just because they are Shiites, Sunnis or Christians."
"I perceive the profound concern felt by the Christian community and I wish to assure them that I am close to them, as well as to all the victims, and pray for strength and consolation for all," the Holy Father told the 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Benedict XVI appealed for prayers to the Almighty "that he may grant the faith and courage necessary to religious and political leaders, local and worldwide, to support those people on the path of reconstruction of the homeland, in the search for a shared balance, in mutual respect, with the awareness that the multiplicity of their components is an integral part of their wealth."