Pope Benedict XVI denounces Italian and Greek arsonists who caused wildfires

Pope Benedict XVI denounces Italian and Greek arsonists who caused wildfires


During today’s general audience, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the "criminal acts" and "irresponsible behavior" of the arsonists, who authorities say are to blame for many of the fires that have devastated Greece and Italy this summer and killed dozens of people.

"One cannot help being worried by the irresponsible behavior of those who put human safety at risk and destroy the environment," Benedict said during his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square.

"I join those who rightly stigmatize such criminal acts and I invite all to pray for the victims of these tragedies," he said.

Massive wildfires in Greece have killed at least 64 people and independent estimates say around 200,000 hectares (495,000 acres) of forest, olive groves and scrub may have been consumed, according to an AP report. However, firefighters reported that today all of the major blazes were receding due a drop in high winds which have been fanning the damaging wildfires.

The situation has also improved in Italy after hundreds of blazes raged through the south of the country over the summer. Four people were killed last week when a wildfire consumed a hotel near the port city of Messina, Sicily, and two shepherds have been arrested for allegedly setting the blaze.

Italian authorities say arsonists are often linked to organized crime groups seeking to clear land for pasture or illegal construction. Greeks also suspect that their land was set on fire by arsonists in the pay of developers, but the claims have not yet been substantiated.