Barbarous killings of Christians saddens Pope

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VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he hoped Central African Republic peace talks would spare the country’s residents from “reliving the throes of another civil war.”

“I hope that the talks announced as taking place shortly will restore stability and spare the people from reliving the throes of civil war,” Benedict said ahead of the talks.

Negotiations between Central African Republic rebels and President Francois Bozize are due to start on Tuesday in the capital of Gabon in a bid to end the month-long crisis in the impoverished and coup-prone state.

In a speech to the ambassadors of the Holy See, 85-year-old Benedict also encouraged efforts to build peace in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I think particularly of the Horn of Africa, and the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where new of acts of violence have erupted, forcing many people to abandon their homes, families and surroundings,” he said.

Among “other threats looming on the horizon,” the pontiff lamented violence in Nigeria, which is “regularly the scene of terrorist attacks which reap victims above all among the Christian faithful gathered in prayer.”

It is, he said, “as if hatred intended to turn temples of prayer and peace into places of fear and division.”

“I was deeply saddened to learn that, even in the days when we celebrated Christmas, some Christians were barbarously put to death,” Benedict added.

During a Christmas Eve service, gunmen attacked a church in northeastern Yobe state, killing six people, including the pastor, before setting the building ablaze.

The attack was followed days later by further violence that saw attackers slit the throats of 15 Christians in a pre-dawn raid.

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