:Johnson City Press; :Mar 17, 2008; :Today; :11A


PALM SUNDAY MASS Pope issues appeal for peace in Iraq

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS



    VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI issued one of his strongest appeals for peace in Iraq on Sunday, days after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop was found near the northern city of Mosul.

    The pope also denounced the 5-yearlong Iraq war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life.

    “Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!” Benedict said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

    On Thursday, the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found near Mosul. He had been abducted on Feb. 29.

    Benedict has called Rahho’s death an “inhuman act of violence” that offended human dignity.

    On Sunday, Benedict praised Rahho for his loyalty to Christ and his refusal to abandon his flock despite many threats and difficulties.

    He recalled Rahho’s death as the Catholic Church opens Holy Week, the most solemn week in the liturgical calendar in which the faithful recall the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

    Benedict said Rahho’s dedication to the Catholic Church and his death compelled him to “raise a strong and sorrowful cry” to denounce

the violence in Iraq spawned by the war that began five years ago this week.

    “At the same time, I make an appeal to the Iraqi people, who for the past five years have borne the consequences of a war that provoked

the breakup of their civil and social life,” Benedict

said.

    He urged them to raise their heads and reconstruct their life through “reconciliation, forgiveness, justice and coexistence among tribal, ethnic and religious groups.”

    The Vatican strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In its aftermath, Benedict has frequently criticized attacks against Iraqi Christians by Islamic extremists. Last year, he urged President Bush to keep the safety of Iraqi Christians in mind.

    Benedict is due to preside over a memorial service at the Vatican today in honor of Rahho. Typically, the pope only presides over such services when a cardinal dies.

The Associated Press Pope Benedict XVI holds the papal staff while leading a procession prior to an open-air Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican on Sunday.