Pope Condems Killing Italian Journalist in Iraq

Stresses "Urgent Need to Reject Violence"

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Pope John Paul II expressed his spiritual closeness to the family of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni who was killed on Thursday in Iraq.



The Holy Father denounced the crime, stressing the urgent need for the rejection of all violence, in a statement issued on Friday by Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office.

"Having learned the news of the terrible killing in Iraq of Enzo Baldoni, the Vatican Secretariat of State sends its "condolences to the family at this time of great sorrow, and assures the spiritual closeness of the Holy Father."

"Expressing a firm condemnation of this new execrable crime, Pope John Paul II hopes that everyone will understand the urgent need to reject violence, in order to build effectively in that martyred land a situation of reciprocal respect in a climate of justice and peace," the note stated.

Baldoni, 56, who was kidnapped a week ago by the so-called Islamic Army of Iraq, was married and the father of two children. He worked as a volunteer for the Italian Red Cross in Iraq. The news of his execution was reported on Thursday night by the Arab television station Al Jazeera, which has video images of the killing, though they were not shown.

For Iraqis, the news was "in a certain sense not that unexpected. “Sadly," the dramatic quality of "daily life here, does not give much hope when episodes like this are verified," said the apostolic nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, in statement on Vatican Radio.

Added to the numerous expressions of grief and strong condemnation that the crime has elicited is that of His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon for Chaldeans and president of the Iraqi bishops conference, who knew Baldoni personally as he had been interviewed by him.

"He was a good person and the news of his death grieves me. I will pray for him and for all his family," he said to "AsiaNews. In his opinion, Baldoni is "a victim, because he had come to Iraq to bring support and help to the civilian population. “I hope his sacrifice will be transformed into a gesture of love for peace and tranquility," the Patriarch added.

"The Iraqi people do not want war, deaths, and violence. The desire for peace is very strong, but we must struggle every day with the terrorists who are not at all interested in re-establishing civil coexistence. The killings and terrible crimes do not honor us, nor do they honor the Iraqi people," he stressed.

For his part, Carlo Ciampi, president of Italy, expressed his "distress and indignation" for the "terrible killing" and shared in the Baldoni family's grief, having contacted them personally.

In a statement, the Catholic Union of the Italian Press, expressed its solidarity with the victim's family as well as its "profound concern" for "the danger represented by the uncontrollable action of numerous terrorist groups" in Iraq.