.- Thursday afternoon Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass for the release of hostages held in Iraq and for all who suffer in that country. During a march organized by families of the three Italian hostages in Iraq, which ended in a gathering at St. Peter’s Square, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, delivered the pope’s “appeal in the name of the one God Who will judge all of us."
The pope, who was in his chapel praying for the hostages for the duration of the march, has assured his “special closeness” to the families in this trying time and hopes that his words will encourage those held as hostages.
The popes message also expressed gratitude to all those who work to establish peace and reconciliation in Iraq, and exhorted Iraqi Catholics “to work to reestablish an atmosphere of harmony and collaboration among all religious and social groups of the country for the common good.”
The Holy Father asked all to pray for an end to the ordeal and entrusted the hostages “to the protection of Mary, Christ's Mother and our Mother.”