Thursday, December 27, 2007

"And So, Peace Further Removes Itself"

Two days after the Pope cited Pakistan in his Christmas thoughts of "those places where the grim sound of arms continues to reverberate," the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ has conveyed the Holy See's shock and grief at the assassination earlier today of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto, 54, the country's former prime minister, was shot by an attacker who subsequently detonated a bomb that killed himself and at least 20 others, according to wire reports. The attack occurred in advance of the 8 January elections in which Bhutto, who recently returned to Pakistan after years in exile, sought a return to power. In the wake of the murder, the nation is said to be "erupting" into protests as moves to avoid further bloodshed were being attempted.

In comments to the Italian wires, Lombardi said that Benedict XVI was immediately informed of Bhutto's death. The attack, he said, "shows how extremely difficult it is to bring peace to a nation so ravaged by violence." As a result, "peace further removes itself."

"The Holy See shares the sorrow of the Pakistani people," Lombardi said. "One cannot see signs of peace in this tormented region."

The Vatican enjoys full diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, as it does with 175 other countries. Since early 2006, Filipino Archbishop Adolfo Yllana has served as the papal representative in Islamabad.

Across the border in India, a community of the Missionaries of Charity was attacked overnight by a group of Hindu fundamentalists.

PHOTO: Toby Melville/Reuters File