Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 13:02 UK

India clashes denounced by Pope

Christian church in Phulbani District of Orissa state, 26/08
Orissa has seen rising tension between Christians and Hindus

The Pope has condemned deadly violence between Hindus and Christians in India's eastern Orissa state, which has claimed at least 11 lives.

During his weekly Vatican address, Pope Benedict XVI said he was "profoundly saddened" and called for communities to try to restore "peaceful coexistence".

The killing of a Hindu leader on Saturday sparked the violence.

Christians have suffered retaliatory attacks, despite police saying Maoist rebels were to blame for the killing.

"I firmly condemn any attack on human life," Pope Benedict told a crowd of pilgrims on Wednesday.

"I express spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in faith who are being so harshly tested."

He labelled the death of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati as "deplorable".

He was shot along with four others in an attack in the Kandhamal district of Orissa.

Pope Benedict XVI
The Pope used strong language in condemning the violence

Police said Maoist rebels were responsible, but the attack has led to days of rioting between Hindu and Christian communities.

Hindu mobs have burnt down monasteries, churches and an orphanage run by Christians.

Among those killed was a Hindu woman who was working at the orphanage, in the village of Barakhama.

Arson and burning of Christian religious places has continued in Kandhamal, despite a curfew in all major towns.

Three bodies were discovered early on Wednesday in the district, bringing the death toll to 11 since Saturday.

Police have now been ordered to shoot rioters on sight.

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