Pope condemns massacre in Syria, urges prayers, dialogue for peace

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People gather at a mass burial for the victims killed during an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla, Syria, in this handout image dated May 26. Pope Benedict XVI joined the international community in condemning a massacre in Houla, Syria, May 2 5-26, which left about 108 people dead, including 49 children and 34 women. (CNS photo/Shaam News Network handout via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI joined the international community in condemning a massacre in Syria, and he called for Christian and Muslim leaders in the country to guide their faithful in prayer and collaboration to restore peace and calm.

The massacre in Houla May 25-26 left about 108 people dead, including 49 children and 34 women. The U.N. Security Council May 27 condemned the massacre of civilians and, while not pinning all the blame on the Syrian government, it accused the government of inappropriately using heavy weapons in a residential area.

In a statement May 28, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the massacre was “a motive of great sorrow and concern for the Holy Father and the entire Catholic community, as it is for the international community which has expressed unanimous condemnation of the incident.”

“Renewing its appeal for an end to all forms of violence, the Holy See exhorts the parties involved and the entire international community to spare no efforts to resolve this crisis through dialogue and reconciliation,” Father Lombardi said.

The Vatican also said religious leaders and those who believe in God “are called to commit themselves to promoting the peace which is so much sought after, for the good of the whole population.”

The United Nations estimates that about 9,000 civilians have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government began in March 2011.

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

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