Speaking after his Sunday Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI voiced prayers of support for a kidnapped Iraqi archbishop and for peace in the Holy Land.
The Pope said that he has followed with "deep sadness" the tragic story of the kidnapping of Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul Paulos Faraj Rahho.
Archbishop Rahho was ambushed on Friday after leaving a church where he had celebrated the Way of the Cross. A group of armed men opened fire on the archbishop’s vehicle, killing three aides, before abducting the clergyman.
"I join the call of the Patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and his collaborators, that the dear Msgr. Rahho, who is in precarious health, be released promptly. I raise, at the same time, my prayer of intercession for the souls of the three young men killed, who were with him at the time of the abduction."
The Holy Father also expressed his closeness to the whole Church in Iraq and in particular the Chaldean Church, which has once again been severely affected by violence.
"I encourage all pastors and faithful to be strong and steadfast in hope, and to all who hold dear the fate of the Iraqi people, let us multiply our efforts that the peace and security to which you are entitled will not be denied you in the future," the Pope said.
The Holy Father also expressed concern about tensions between Israel and Gaza, which became very serious this week. Yesterday, some 54 people in Gaza were killed as a result of Israeli air strikes in retaliation for Hamas militants’ rocket attacks on Israel.
"I renew my invitation to the authorities, both Israeli and Palestinian, that they stop this spiral of violence, unilaterally, without conditions: only by showing an absolute respect for human life, even that of the enemy, can we hope to give a future of peace and coexistence to the younger generations, and to all those people who have their roots in the Holy Land."
Pope Benedict invited the whole Church to raise their prayers and supplications for peace "in the land of Jesus" and to show "careful and effective" solidarity for both Israeli and Palestinian peoples.