John Paul II Prays for Peace and Victims of War

The Conflict "Threatens the Fate of Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 23, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In his first public meetings since the war's start, John Paul II reaffirms his prayers for peace and his solidarity with victim's families.

The Holy Father offered his prayers today from St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, at the conclusion of the ceremony to proclaim five new blesseds.

Before bidding the pilgrims farewell, the Pope appealed for prayers "above all at this time" to implore for "the gift of peace."

In particular, John Paul II entrusted "the victims of these hours of war and their suffering relatives" to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

"I feel spiritually close to them with affection and prayer," he said.

Included in the Prayers of the Faithful for the beatification Mass were prayers for peace and reconciliation among peoples.

On Saturday, during his first public appearance since the start of the military operations against Iraq, the Pope condemned recourse to force as an instrument to solve problems among people.

"When war, as in these days in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is even more urgent to proclaim with a determined voice, that peace alone is the way to construct a more just and solidaristic society."

"Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of men," the Pope said when receiving employees of the Italian Catholic television channel "Telepace," on the 25th anniversary of its foundation.