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 CNS Story:

POPE-ATTACKS Dec-26-2010 (330 words) xxxi

Pope deplores deadly attacks on Christian churches

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI deplored a series of deadly attacks against Christian churches and other targets around the world at Christmas time.

The pope appealed for peace Dec. 26 after bombs went off in churches in the Philippines and Nigeria, killing or wounding several worshipers. In Pakistan, a suicide bombing against a World Food Program depot left at least 40 dead.

"At this time of holy Christmas, the desire and the pleas for peace have become still more intense. But our world continues to be marked by violence, especially against the disciples of Christ," the pope said at his noon blessing at the Vatican.

The pope said he had learned with "great sadness" of the bombing during Christmas Mass at a Catholic chapel on the Filipino island of Jolo, where Muslim extremist groups have been active. The blast injured the local priest and eight others.

He also condemned the violence Christmas Eve against Christian churches in Nigeria, where gasoline bombs against three places of worship left at least six people dead, including a Baptist pastor. Authorities said they suspected an Islamist sect in the violence.

"The earth has also been stained with blood in other parts of the world, like Pakistan," the pope said.

"I wish to express my heartfelt condolences for the victims of this absurd violence. Once again I make an appeal to abandon the path of hatred in order to find peaceful solutions to conflicts and bring security and tranquility to these dear populations," he said.

The pope noted that the church on Dec. 26 was celebrating the feast of the Holy Family, remembering that Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to flee the "homicidal fury" of Herod and escape into Egypt.

"Let us remember all those, in particular families, who are forced to abandon their homes because of war, violence and intolerance," he said.

He asked for prayers so that "the Lord may touch people's hearts and bring hope, reconciliation and peace."

END


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