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Volume 2, Number 47              January 5 - 11, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

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Pope Urges End to 'Menacing Tensions' in 2003

By Shasta Darlington 

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul (news - web sites) Wednesday called for an end to the "fratricidal and senseless" violence in the Middle East and peaceful solutions to all tensions menacing the world in his first message of 2003.

The Pope's New Year appeal for peace came as President Bush (news - web sites) made a new pitch to drum up support for possible war on Iraq, warning that Baghdad had the power to unleash economic chaos if given the chance to attack the United States.

"In the face of today's conflicts and the menacing tensions of the moment, yet again I invite prayer to pursue pacific means for settlement," the Pope said during his homily to celebrate the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace.

The 82-year-old Pontiff, looking a bit tired but speaking in a clear and forceful voice, presided over the mass in St Peter's Basilica this year rather than celebrating it, which would have required hours of standing and moving around.

The Pope made no specific reference to the situation in Iraq but the Vatican (news - web sites) has stressed that any attack against Iraq must have the approval of the United Nations (news - web sites). The Pope said that conflicts must be resolved in harmony with international law. 

Special Appeal for MidEast Peace

The Pontiff made a special appeal to end violence in the Middle East and the Holy Land.

"The dramatic and persistant tension in which this region of the Middle East finds itself makes more urgent the search for a positive solution to the fratricidal and senseless conflict that has been bloodying it for too long," he said.

At least 1,755 Palestinians and 675 Israelis have been killed since a Palestinian revolt for statehood began in September 2000 after peace talks stalled.

"Today, as in the past, despite serious and repeated attempts to upset the peace and harmony of peoples living together, peace is possible and necessary," he said, prompting an unusual burst of applause in the basilica.

The Roman Catholic Church marks its World Day of Peace each January 1.

Earlier this month, the Pope sent a World Day of Peace message to governments and international organizations, calling on world leaders to defuse the explosive situation in the Middle East, saying they would be held accountable for their actions.

Later Wednesday during his weekly Angelus address, the Pope reiterated that message before thousands of faithful packed into St. Peter's Square on the first day of the year.

"How can I not once again express the hope that those in positions of responsibility do everything possible to find pacific solutions to the many tensions present around the world, in particular, in the Middle East."

January 1, 2003


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