Ivory Coast Urged Toward National Reconciliation

Pope Pleads for Unity and Respect for Law

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed for national reconciliation in Ivory Coast, where a months-long crisis gave way in recent days to rioting over a French-brokered peace pact.



"Once again my thoughts go to Ivory Coast, tried by a serious crisis that lacerates those peoples," the Pope said after praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"Let us pray so that, beyond the divisions and claims, the forces of those who have the unity of the country at heart and respect for legality will prevail," the Pontiff implored.

He also prayed "that the Catholic faithful in particular, led by their pastors, will know how to act so that dialogue and respect of persons and their goods will be practiced and promoted by all."

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people protested in the streets of Abidjan against the agreements signed Jan. 24 in Paris.

On Friday, hundreds of people invaded the city's international airport trying to harass French families who were fleeing from the former French colony.

Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo rejected the pact for what they consider excessive concessions to the rebels, who have occupied virtually half of the country since the unsuccessful coup attempt Sept. 19.

"May Mary, Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, intercede for the reconciliation and concord of all the children of that beloved nation," John Paul II prayed.