Pope makes second appeal for Congo as situation worsens

The Pope has repeated his plea for international humanitarian aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo just two months after his last appeal for the country.

"I renew my call for dialogue and ask the international community to work to provide for the needs of the population," he told the thousands of people at the Dec. 5 general audience.

Pope Benedict XVI previously appealed for the country's peace during his Angelus on Sept. 30, when he said he was "particularly close" to suffering of the refugees, women and children who are in "deep distress because of the persistent armed clashes."

The eastern part of the African nation is being convulsed by a second wave of violence and spreading hunger, leading the Pope to describe the situation as "worrying news."

"It has become the scene of armed clashes and violence for months," said the pontiff.

"A large part of the population lack the primary means of subsistence and thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes to seek refuge elsewhere," he added.

On Dec. 2, M23 rebel movement withdrew from the city of Goma, which is in the province of North Kivu.

M23 is comprised of former Tutsi rebels that entered Congo's army during after an agreement eight months ago. The force took over the city for 11 days after government forces, supported by the U.N., had fled.

Its name comes from a failed March 23 agreement of three years ago, but its campaign began in May this year when it turned against the Congolese army.

U.N. officials said gunmen seized a camp about 10 miles from Goma nearly two weeks ago in an attack that involved several women being raped women and food being stolen.

But according to U.N. Security Council experts, the Rwandan Defence Force gave M23 support to in its assault of occupation of Goma.

The experts also accuse Rwandan government of training and overseeing the M23 rebel movement in the eastern part of Congo.

Congo's borders have seen almost 20 years of violence fueled by power struggles for control of the region's gold and tin, as well as ethnic and political disputes.

Peace talks are expected to take place during the next few days, but the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA says over 841,000 people have been displaced so far.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a population of over 70 million, reports that a majority of its inhabitants are Christians and half of them are Catholic.

Blessed Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1980, the first time a Pope stepped foot in the nation.

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