John Paul II Laments Deaths in Iraq and in Africa

Following Last Week's Massacre of 1,000 People in Congo

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Already saddened by the deaths in war-torn Iraq, John Paul II appealed to the world not to forget the ongoing bloody conflicts in Africa.



"While in Baghdad and in other places in Iraq the clashes continue with destruction and death, news which is no less worrying comes from the African continent, from which in the past few days we have learned about massacres and summary executions," the Pope said at the end of today's general audience.

"These crimes have taken place in the tormented region of the Great Lakes, and in particular in an area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo," the Holy Father explained to the 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The U.N. Mission in the Congo reported Sunday that about 1,000 people died last Thursday in what is considered an ethnic massacre.

The struggle between communities is a consequence of the civil war that broke out in the Congo in 1998, when Rwanda and Uganda supported a civilian uprising to oust the government of Kinshasa.

More than 2 million people have died either violently or through poor health care and malnutrition.

"In raising a fervent prayer to God for the repose of the souls of the victims," the Pope said, "I direct a heartfelt appeal to the politicians in charge, as well as to all men and women of good will, so that they commit themselves to bring an end to the violence and abuse, putting aside personal selfishness and group interests, with the active collaboration of the international community."

"For this reason," he added, "every effort at reconciliation among the Congolese, Ugandan and Rwandan peoples must be encouraged, as well as similar efforts that are under way in Burundi and in the Sudan, with the hope that from these efforts peace which is so desired, can flower."