Pope, Amid Easter's Joy, Mourns 'Continual Slaughter' In Iraq

Sunday, April 8th 2007, 2:37 pm

By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Even on Christianity's most joyous day, Pope Benedict XVI lamented the ``continual slaughter'' in Iraq and unrest in Afghanistan as he denounced ``the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion.''

In his message for Easter, Benedict said suffering worldwide puts faith to the test.

``How many wounds, how much suffering there is in the world,'' the pontiff told tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans gathered Sunday at St. Peter's Square where he had just finished celebrating Mass.

Benedict, delivering his traditional ``Urbi et Orbi'' Easter address from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, denounced terrorism and kidnappings, and ``the thousand faces of violence which some people attempt to justify in the name of religion,'' as well as human rights violations.

``Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability,'' Benedict said. ``In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, unfortunately, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.''

He also had harsh words about the ``underestimated humanitarian situation'' in Darfur as well as other African places of suffering. These included violence and looting in Congo, fighting in Somalia, and the ``grievous crisis'' in Zimbabwe, marked by crackdowns on dissidents, a disastrous economy and severe corruption.'

Benedict said political ``paralysis'' threatened Lebanon's future.

``Suffering, evil, injustice, death, especially when it strikes the innocent such as children who are victims of war and terrorism, of sickness and hunger, does not all of this put our faith to the test?''

In contrast to his sorrowful address were the bright red, pink, yellow and orange splashes of color from flowers which adorned the steps of the basilica and surrounded the outdoor altar where he celebrated Mass under hazy sunshine.

Voices of choir boys floated across the square, as did the smell of incense sprinkled by clerics.

In an unusual touch for the Vatican's Easter Mass, black-robed clerics intoned a long chant from the Byzantine liturgy. This year, Eastern and Western celebrations coincided. The two rites often celebrate Easter on different dates because of different church calendars.

Benedict ended his appearance by offering Easter greetings in dozens of languages, including Arabic and Hebrew, and gave the crowd his apostolic blessing.

After a grueling Holy Week schedule of long public appearances, the pontiff, who turns 80 on April 16, planned to spend a few days in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, in the Alban Hills south of Rome.

Besides his birthday, April also brings the second anniversary of his election as head of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

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