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Friday, April 30, 2004


VATICAN CITY, APR 30, 2004 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon John Paul II made "a pressing appeal in the name of the one God" for the release of all persons who have been kidnapped in Iraq. His appeal was delivered by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, at the end of a march late yesterday afternoon which was organized by the families of the three Italians held hostage in Iraq.

  The procession of an estimated 3,000 people departed Castel Sant'Angelo at 5 p.m., walked down Via della Conciliazione and gathered at St. Peter's Square where Archbishop Lajolo, accompanied by bishops of the dioceses of the three hostages, read the Pope's appeal.

  "I can tell you," said Archbishop Lajolo, "that this morning, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Italy, the Holy Father celebrated Mass for the release of the hostages held in Iraq as well as for everyone in that country who is suffering. He has entrusted them to the protection of Mary, Christ's Mother and our Mother.

  "In the name of the one God, Who will judge all of us, John Paul II renews his pressing appeal to the kidnappers to promptly return the persons kidnapped to their families.

  "He hopes that the expression of his fatherly sentiments and his encouragement will reach those taken as hostages and will continue to sustain with courage and hope their present harsh ordeal.

  "To the families and to all those close to those kidnapped by ties of affection, the Pope assures his special closeness in these moments of apprehension and anguish.

  "The Holy Father does not doubt that everything is being done and that no stone is being left unturned in order to guarantee the safety of the hostages and to secure their release as soon as possible.

  "At the same time, John Paul II thanks all those working to reestablish a climate of reconciliation and dialogue in Iraq with a view to fully recovering the country's sovereignty and independence, in conditions of security for the entire population.

  "John Paul II exhorts the beloved Catholic community in Iraq and all Christians of the country to continue to work to reestablish an atmosphere of harmony and collaboration among all religious and social groups of the country for the common good.

  "The Pope invites everyone to pray to God, Who loves the life of every person and desires no one's death, for a positive conclusion to this painful affair. At this very moment the Pope is praying in his chapel, joined to all of us in a common supplication to God."

  After reading the message, the archbishop invited all present to observe a minute of silence, following which they prayed the Our Father and sang Salve Regina.

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