The Pope has expressed his concern and solidarity for the people of Darfur, Sudan who have been subject to what United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called “ethnic cleansing,” and has sent Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" as his special envoy to the country.
Archbishop Cordes, who left today for Khartoum, Sudan to express the Holy Father's concern for and solidarity with the populations of Darfur, received a letter written by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state.
In the letter, dated July 16 and made public today, the cardinal notes “the recent agreement between the government of Khartoum and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLA-SPLM) has opened some good possibilities for peace and development for the country.”
“However,” continues the letter, “the serious humanitarian situation in Darfur, which has recently stirred up a public outcry, is a cause of great concern for Pope John Paul II.”
He added that the Pope sends greetings to the Catholic community “and to all peoples in the Sudan who are in distress and in need, especially in the region of Darfur.”
“It is the hope of the Holy Father,” continues the Letter, “that the people in Darfur will be given all necessary humanitarian aid, especially in the upcoming rainy season, during which time their survival will become even more difficult. He trusts that the Sudanese authorities, in partnership with the international community, will intensify their efforts to reach a just solution for Darfur.”
He added that “this will happen when the voice of the peoples of Darfur is heard and recognized, and when their fundamental human rights are respected, especially the right to life, to political and religious freedom, and to a peaceful existence in their own territories.”
Cardinal Sodano writes that “the recognition of these rights of the various peoples of the Sudanese population will allow all citizens of the country, without distinction, to offer their own contribution to the building of a just society, based on solidarity and the good of each and every member.”
“In particular,” he points out, “respect for the legitimate local authorities will ensure that the contrasts and problems of Darfur will not extend further or deepen, thus threatening to render vain the results of the peace accords between the North and the South, reached after prolonged and difficult negotiations.”
A statement from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum was also published today. It noted that Archbishop Cordes and Msgr. Dal Toso, while in Khartoum, will meet with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, apostolic nuncio and with Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, archbishop of Khartoum, and members of the country's Episcopal conference “to be informed about the conflict underway that Kofi Annan has defined as a true and proper 'ethic cleansing'.”
“With the assistance of the United Nations,” the statement continues, “Archbishop Cordes will go to Darfur, which has been increasingly difficult to reach because of conflicts, and he will visit the refugee camps in Nyala. In addition to the war, the conditions of desperate poverty in these camps cause over 100 deaths each day, according to the U.N.”
“The situation in Sudan,” concludes the statement, “is so compromised - in over 20 years of conflict, there have been two million deaths and five million refugees - as to have been defined 'Rwanda in slow motion'. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has already sent financial assistance to Darfur though the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.”