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Pope Francis appeals for peace in Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine

(JTA) – Pope Francis made an impassioned appeal for peace in the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine.

Addressing thousands of people Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, he noted that Monday marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.

“As we remember this tragic event, I hope that the mistakes of the past won’t be repeated, but that the lessons of history will be taken into account, so that peace always prevails through patient and courageous dialogue,” he said.

He prayed that God  grant the “peoples and leaders” in the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine “the wisdom and strength to pursue the path of peace with determination and to face each dispute with the tenacity of dialogue and negotiation and the power of reconciliation.” Every decision, he said, “must not be based on particular interests but on the common good and on respect for each person. Remember that all is lost with war and nothing is lost with peace.”

The pope – who had hosted Israeli and Palestinian leaders at a prayer meeting for peace at the Vatican in June — particularly decried the impact of the fighting on children.

“I think especially of the children whose hopes for a dignified future are taken from them, dead children, injured and mutilated children, orphans and children who have bits of weapons as toys, children who don’t know how to smile,” he said. “Please stop, I ask you with all my heart.”

Meanwhile, Caritas, the Catholic Church’s international aid organization, launched an emergency appeal to help people in Gaza.

“Most of the victims are children, women and old people. We strongly believe that the Church of Jesus Christ cannot remain silent; we cannot stand aside and do nothing,” Fr Raed Abusahlia, director of Caritas Jerusalem said in a news release.

In the first part of the more than nearly $1.5 million program, Caritas will provide medical supplies and medicines to four hospitals plus fuel for generators. Two thousand families will receive food parcels and 500 families will be given blankets.

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