Benedict blasts Iraq slaughter

"Nothing positive comes from Iraq", Pope Benedict lamented in his Easter message while Australian churches filled in what Sydney Cardinal George Pell earlier attributed to a post 9/11 religious reaction.

BBC News reports that in a live televised address, the pontiff said Iraq was being "torn apart by continual slaughter".

Pope Benedict also voiced worry over continuing violence and human suffering in parts of Asia and Africa.

Speaking from the balcony overlooking the square, Pope Benedict expressed his concern at the level of suffering in the world.

"Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees," he said.

But he noted "some signs of hope" in the Middle East in what he called "the dialogue" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Turning to Africa, the pope said conditions in Sudan's Darfur region were "catastrophic", and where the humanitarian situation was "underestimated".

He also singled out violence and looting in Congo, fighting in Somalia and the "grievous crisis" in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, Cardinal Pell told a packed Easter Mass at St Mary's Cathedral that Australia was not as irreligious as some believed, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

If India was the world's most religious society and Sweden the least, he argued, Australia was "somewhere in the middle, closer to Sweden, but not nearly as close as much public discussion would suggest".

NSW's Wollongong Bishop Peter Ingham said the cathedral was full for all services from Wednesday night, through to and including Easter Day.

"Some people make a big effort on the special feasts like Christmas and Easter but, you know, the fact that they come at Christmas and Easter shows that deep in them, there is a faith and deep in them there is an awareness in their lives," he said.

In Melbourne, Archbishop Denis Hart, who led four services at St Patrick's Cathedral, offered a message of hope.

"On this feast of Easter we are invited to be people of a living hope, to believe that what is living and good, even in our day, will overcome that which is evil," he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Prowse told the Age that worshippers were attending Easter services like never before.

"I think people today are searching for a deeper sense of religion in their lives," he said.

And in Perth, Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey used his Easter message to urge people to remember Jesus Christ was the "light of the world".

"If we get to know him and follow him, each of us can be a candle, a torch, a ray of light, in the darkness of a world in the grip of violence and cruelty," the archbishop said.


SOURCE
Pope decries 'slaughter' in Iraq (BBC News, 9/4/07)
Crowds flock to Easter services (The Australian, 10/4/07)
Churches full to hear Easter message (Sunshine Coast Daily, 9/4/07)
Sermons seek to inspire (Herald Sun, 10/4/07)
Pope says love trumps evil, death (ABC News, 9/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
George Cardinal Pell's Easter Message For 2007 (Sydney Archdiocese)


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