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Pope Calls for Help for Middle East Christians

Pope Benedict XVI prepares to greet people during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican 12 Sept. (Photo: CNS/Paul Haring) 

13 Sep 2012 – By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican firmly condemned the recent attack against a U.S. consulate in Libya, which led to the death of a U.S. ambassador, three U.S. personnel and at least 10 Libyans.

“The very serious attack organized against the United States diplomatic mission in Libya,” it said, “calls for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See.”

“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, in a written statement released Sept. 13.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three staff members were killed during what appeared to be a pre-planned, sophisticated armed attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi Sept. 11.

U.S. officials said it was too soon to know whether the attack was related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Authorities were looking into those responsible for the raid, which according to witnesses, also involved the use of rocket- propelled grenades.

“Along with our sadness, mourning and prayers for the victims, we again express hope that, despite this tragedy, the international community may discover the most favorable ways to continue its commitment in favor of peace in Libya and the entire Middle East,” Father Lombardi said.

The statement came after an earlier Vatican communique decrying disrespect toward all religions and deploring all violence as unacceptable.

“Profound respect for the beliefs, texts, outstanding figures and symbols of the various religions are an essential precondition for the peaceful coexistence of peoples,” Father Lombardi said in a Sept. 12 statement.

“The serious consequences of unjustified offense and provocations against the sensibilities of Muslim believers are once again evident in these days, as we see the reactions they arouse, sometimes with tragic results, which in turn nourish tension and hatred, unleashing unacceptable violence,” said the written statement, which was also translated into Arabic.

The Vatican said that statement was a response to a growing sense of anger and unrest erupting in parts of the Middle East in reaction to the trailer of a U.S.-made amateur film mocking the prophet Mohammed. Though the trailer had been released online in July, it grabbed Arab media attention only after its recent translation into Arabic.

Tensions over the film had been mounting in Egypt and thousands of unarmed demonstrators gathered outside the United States Embassy in Cairo Sept. 11. Some of the demonstrators eventually breached compound’s walls and destroyed a flag found inside.

Mob protests followed in Libya, including attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi later that night. Protests against the film spread to Yemen Sept. 13 with reports of demonstrators storming the U.S. embassy in Sanaa.

The deaths of the Americans in Libya had already been reported by the time the Vatican released the first statement Sept. 12, but the circumstances and motives behind the attack were still unclear, Father Lombardi told reporters that day.

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Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Pope Benedict XVI Interreligious Arab Spring