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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 April 2007, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Pope decries 'slaughter' in Iraq
Pope Benedict XVI
The Pope said there was still much suffering in the world
Pope Benedict XVI has lamented that "nothing positive comes from Iraq", in his Easter message in St Peter's Square at the Vatican.

In a live televised address, the pontiff said Iraq was being "torn apart by continual slaughter".

Pope Benedict also voiced worry over continuing violence and human suffering in parts of Asia and Africa.

Earlier the pontiff led Easter Sunday Mass before tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in the square.

Easter Sunday is the holiest day in the Christian calendar, marking the Resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion on Good Friday.

'Signs of hope'

Speaking from the balcony overlooking the square, Pope Benedict expressed his concern at the level of suffering in the world.

"Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees," he said.

Peace is sorely needed
Pope Benedict XVI

His remarks came hours after at least 15 people were killed in an explosion in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in the latest violence in Iraq.

But the Pope noted "some signs of hope" in the Middle East in what he called "the dialogue" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Talks between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have continued despite Israel's boycott of the recently formed Palestinian government of national unity, because it contains the militant Hamas group.

The Pope also expressed fears about the political future of Lebanon, which he said was in serious jeopardy.

'Faces of violence'

The pontiff spoke of the faith of Christians in the risen Christ but he also painted a very sombre picture of a world disfigured by war and terrorism.

He condemned terrorism and the use of religion to justify a "thousand faces of violence".

"Peace is sorely needed," he said.

The Pope said he also looked with apprehension at conditions prevailing in several parts of Africa, including the "catastrophic" humanitarian disaster in Darfur, violence and looting in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the "grievous crisis" in Zimbabwe.

After giving his Easter blessing, the Pope, dressed in gold vestments, greeted pilgrims in more than 60 different languages.

The Pope will spend the next few days at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, before returning to Rome.


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