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Pope urges "compassion" over famine

By AFP

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged the world not to be "indifferent" to famine, as some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa face starvation amid the worst drought there in decades.

"We must not be indifferent to the tragedy of the hungry and the thirsty," the pope said in an address to hundreds of pilgrims following the weekly Angelus prayer at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, just outside Rome.

"Many brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa are suffering these days from the dramatic consequences of the famine, aggravated by war and the lack of stable institutions," he said, calling for "compassion" and "fraternal solidarity."

Referring to a Bible passage on the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes by Jesus Christ, he said: "Jesus of reminds us of our responsibility -- to do everything we can to help those who are hungry and thirsty."

"It is an immense task. In this time of holiday, let us not forget to open our hands and our hearts to come to the aid of those who need it," he added.

Aid agencies have stepped up efforts to aid the worst affected from the drought in Somalia, with the UN's World Food Programme starting an airlift of food aid into the Somali capital Mogadishu last week despite battles in the city.

But charities say more international donations are needed and relief efforts have been hampered by the combat, as well as a ban on some humanitarian agencies by the Islamist group Shebab which controls much of southern Somalia.

© 2011 AFP

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