.- Pope Benedict XVI called for an immediate halt to “all violence and shedding of blood” in Syria during his weekly Angelus address on Sunday.
“I ask God to give the wisdom of the heart, especially for those who have the greatest responsibilities, so that no effort is spared in the quest for peace, including the international community, through dialogue and reconciliation, for a proper political settlement of the conflict,” said the Pope to pilgrims at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo July 29.
His comments come as government forces and rebels battle for control of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The armed revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 and has since claimed over 10,000 lives according to latest U.N. estimates. Opposition forces claim the true figure is nearer to 20,000.
The Pope said that he has been following events “with concern” for the “growing and tragic episodes of violence in Syria” which have created a “sad sequence of deaths and injuries among civilians.” He also lamented the large number of internally displaced people and refugees who have moved to neighboring countries.
He called for humanitarian assistance to be provided to those in need and he assured those suffering of his prayers.
The situation in Syria has been a consistent feature of Pope Benedict’s comments in recent months. In July he expressed a fear that the internal conflict “risks becoming a generalized conflict which would have highly negative consequences for the country and the entire region.”
In June he called upon the international community to “spare no efforts to resolve this crisis through dialogue and reconciliation.”
Earlier in his Angelus address, Pope Benedict reflected on Sunday’s gospel in which St. John recounted Christ’s feeding of the five thousand by the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Pope described the episode as “a sign of God’s immeasurable providence in the Eucharist.”
“Strengthened by that sacrifice, may we always work for the spiritual nourishment of our brethren, not forgetting the poor and needy,” he said.