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Pope calls for end to killing in Somalia

Pope Benedict XVI at his weekly general audience yesterday (Photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI has made an urgent plea for peace and an end to disrespect for life and law in Somalia.

During his general audience yesterday, the Pope said his thoughts were with the people of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, which continues to be hit by “brutal violence and was the scene of a fresh massacre yesterday”.

The Pope said he was praying for the victims’ families and all those who “are suffering because of the hatred and instability” in Somalia.

He said he hoped that with the help of the international community, no effort would be spared “to re-establish a respect for life and human rights”.

Armed militants disguised as Somali government forces raided a hotel in the Somali capital earlier this week killing at least 32 people, including six members of parliament.

At least two attackers went floor to floor spraying gunfire, and at least one of them blew himself up inside the hotel, according to media reports.

Somalia’s al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Conflict has raged in Somalia since its central government collapsed in 1991. Fighting has intensified recently between al-Shabab militants and the transitional government troops, which are backed by African Union forces.

The Pope made the appeal after speaking with an estimated 3,500 pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence.

In his catechesis, the Pope spoke of the importance of having a “travel companion” for one’s spiritual journey in life.

He said people could share their experience of faith with a spiritual director or confessor or could turn to Mary and the saints by praying to them, studying their lives and writings, and trying to imitate them.

People could start by looking more in-depth into the lives of their name saints, he said.

The Pope said while St Joseph and St Benedict were important to him, St Augustine has been “a good travel companion in my life’s journey and in my ministry” thanks to prayer and the many years of extensively studying his life.

St Augustine has much to teach today’s world in which, “paradoxically, relativism is the truth which must guide one’s thoughts, choices, and behaviour”, the Pope said.

He said St Augustine faced trials and failures and struggled to find the truth in “prestige, a career, possessions, and in promises of instant happiness”.

Luckily the saint was never satisfied and kept searching for real truth – the kind that would give his life meaning and fill his heart with peace and joy, the Pope said.

St Augustine, whose feast day is celebrated on August 28, “found in Christ the fullness of that truth which brings authentic freedom and joy”, he said.

The Pope said people could either decide to live life superficially by not having to think and just grasping life’s fleeting moments or they could set aside time to reflect on one’s actions and the true meaning of life.

He said perhaps people are afraid to seek the truth or are afraid the truth will grab them and change their lives like it did to St Augustine.

But the Pope called on all people, especially those who are struggling with their faith, those who are not active in church life and those who live as if God did not exist: “Do not be afraid of the truth. Never abandon the journey toward” truth and the thirst for it.

“God will never fail to give that light” needed to see the truth and “to feel in one’s heart that he loves us and that he desires to be loved,” the Pope said.