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Condemnation over bombings

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Recent deadly bombings in Iraq and the Holy Land have drawn sharp condemnation from Pope John Paul II and other Church officials, who urged fresh steps to end violence against civilians and humanitarian workers.

Church experts were among those shocked and saddened at the death of long-time UN human rights specialist Sergio Vieira de Mello and 22 others in a suicide attack against UN headquarters in Baghdad on August 19.

The same day in Jerusalem, a Palestinian militant blew up a crowded bus, killing 20 people – several of them children. The attack set in motion Israeli reprisal raids, including the assassination of a senior leader of Hamas in Gaza.

The Pope, speaking at a general audience on August 20, said news of the attacks in the region “can only generate deep sadness and total condemnation in our heart”.

News of Mr de Mello’s death prompted an immediate papal telegram to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, said the bombing was a vicious and irrational act against an agency that is trying to bring humanitarian aid to Iraq.

Another Vatican diplomat remembered Mr de Mello, a 55 year-old native of Brazil, as a highly efficient champion of people whose rights were being trampled.

“He was very active and extraordinarily well liked,” said Coadjutor Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and the former Vatican representative to UN organisations in Geneva.

Archbishop Renato Martino, the former Vatican observer at the United Nations in New York, told Vatican Radio he knew the diplomat well.

“I was devastated when I heard what happened,” the archbishop said on August 20.

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