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POPE-AUDIENCE (UPDATED) Mar-31-2011 (630 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope appeals for end to violence, start of peace talks for Ivory Coast

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a child as he leaves his general audience. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI launched an urgent appeal for an end to violence in Ivory Coast and called for constructive talks to end the crisis. He also announced he was sending an envoy to the region to encourage reconciliation.

The United Nations said it fears Ivory Coast's increasingly bloody crisis could become a full blown civil war; the crisis began when incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office after Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner of elections Nov. 28.

Some 1 million people have fled the violence and at least 460 people have been killed since December, according to the United Nations. Many have escaped the violence by taking refuge in Liberia.

Amnesty International reported March 31 that at least 10,000 people in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, went to the local Catholic mission seeking help after forces loyal to Ouattara conquered Duekoue, where the mission had already received 5,000 refugees.

"The humanitarian situation is dramatic because the fighting has gone on for three days," said Bishop Gaspard Beby Gneba of Man, whose diocese includes Duekoue. He told the Catholic news agency Fides that fighting is going on in several towns and villages.

The African Union has invited both sides to engage in talks in Addis Ababa April 4-6.

Pope Benedict said his thoughts were with all the people of Ivory Coast who have been "traumatized by the painful internal conflict and the serious social and political tensions."

The pope expressed his concern for all those touched by the violence and for those who have lost loved ones in the conflict.

Speaking in French at the end of his weekly general audience March 30, the pope made an urgent appeal that "constructive dialogue for the common good" begin as soon as possible.

The "tragic" nature of the clashes mean there is an "even more urgent" need to rebuild respect and peaceful coexistence in the country, he said.

He asked that people spare no effort in working toward a solution.

"We are pleased about the Holy Father's words and we thank him for them. We hope that his voice is heard," Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, told Fides March 30.

The pope said he was sending Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as his special envoy to Ivory Coast as a sign of solidarity with the victims of the conflict and to "encourage reconciliation and peace."

During the audience in St. Peter's Square, the pope continued his series of talks about the doctors of the church, focusing on St. Alphonsus Liguori, an 18th-century preacher, scholar and founder of the Redemptorists. The order has 5,300 members and ministers in more than 70 countries.

The pope praised St. Alphonsus' early efforts of evangelizing the impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods of Naples.

The Neapolitan priest organized prayer groups, teaching people how to pray and encouraging them to live a better life. The initiative snowballed and soon catechists and priests were leading growing numbers of prayer groups that met in homes and shops to pray and reflect on the word of God, the pope said.

Such widespread moral education created "moral healing" in the neighborhoods where the poor started helping one another and where stealing, duels and prostitution nearly disappeared, he said.

These so-called "Association of the Chapels," which still exist, are "a model of missionary action that can inspire us even today for a new evangelization, particularly for the poor," he said. They can also inspire people to build a society marked by justice, fraternity and solidarity, he added.

The pope asked that the saint "help us respond ever more fully to God's call to grow in holiness, and inspire in priests, religious and laity a firm commitment to the new evangelization."

- - -

Contributing to this story was Sara Angle in Rome.

Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110330_en.html.

The text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110330_sp.html.


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