Pope prays for Syria as worries of larger conflict loom

Pope Benedict XVI in St Peters Basilica CNA Vatican Catholic News 2 18 12 Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI is praying that Syria ends its internal conflict, which he believes could have very serious consequences for the entire Middle East.

"May God give wisdom of heart to those in positions of responsibility, that all violence and bloodshed may cease," he said at the Vatican on June 21.

He also called on the international community to "spare no effort to help Syria emerge from its current situation of violence and crisis, which has already gone on a long time and risks becoming a generalized conflict which would have highly negative consequences for the country and the entire region."

Pope Benedict made his remarks to those participating in ROACO, an annual Vatican summit of Catholic aid agencies involved in supporting eastern churches. Among the delegates was the papal nuncio to Syria, Monsignor Mario Zenari, and the President of Caritas in Syria, Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo.
The Pope told them that the gathering was an occasion for him "to reaffirm my closeness to the great suffering of our brothers and sisters in Syria, in particular the young innocents and those most defenseless."
The armed revolt against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. It has since claimed over 10,000 lives, according to the latest U.N. estimates.

Most of the fighting has centered on the city of Homs, where continued shelling on June 21 prevented the Red Cross from evacuating civilians.

Pope Benedict hoped that the "concrete fraternity in Christ" that comes with prayers and commitment would help the people of Syria "not to lose the light of hope at this moment of darkness."

He also made an "urgent and heartfelt appeal that in the face of the dire need" the "necessary humanitarian assistance be guaranteed" to the Syrian people who most require it.

Human life "is a precious gift which must always be protected," he stated.

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