Pope Benedict XVI condemned the systematic atrocities, killings and violence targeting innocent people in Congo and called for all sides to work for peace. CNS photo/Reuters

Pope calls for greater protection of civilians, peace in east Congo

By  Catholic News Service
  • October 1, 2012

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Amid increasing violence in eastern Congo, Pope Benedict XVI called for peaceful dialogue and greater protection of civilians there.

After praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence Sept. 30, the pope said he was following, "with love and concern," the events unfolding in Congo.

Government soldiers have been stationed in Goma in the eastern part of the country for several months to fight the rebel group called "M23," which defected from the Congolese military.

Clashes, which intensified in the spring, have led more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, according to Vatican Radio.

The United Nations has said Rwandan defense officials are backing the rebel group, which has been accused of rape and the murder of civilians in its effort to control Congo's mineral-rich North Kivu province. Rwandan officials have denied allegations of assisting the rebels.

The pope said his prayers were with the "refugees, women and children, who because of prolonged armed clashes are subjected to suffering, violence and deep distress."

The pope called for the "peaceful means of dialogue and the protection of many innocent people" so that peace -- founded on justice -- may quickly return to the nation and the whole region.

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