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Pope Benedict Prays for Refugees on Palm Sunday

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter's Square. He also prayed for the many African victims that every year embark on a dangerous sea crossing of the Mediterranean to reach Europe, but fail to reach their destination.

Pope Benedict's thoughts on Palm Sunday were for the thousands of illegal immigrants who every year attempt a perilous journey from Africa to Europe in search of a better life.

During the Angelus prayer, he recalled Africans who just days ago lost their life in the Mediterranean. "We cannot resign ourselves to such tragedies," he said, "which unfortunately, have been taking place for some time."

The head of the Roman Catholic Church said the scope of the problem calls for increasingly urgent strategies coordinated by the European Union and African states. He said it also calls for the adoption of adequate humanitarian measures so immigrants are not compelled to turn to unscrupulous human traffickers.

Earlier, Pope Benedict celebrated Palm Sunday Mass, which marks the start of the Christian Holy Week and commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Under blue skies and bright sunshine, thousands of tourists and faithful from different nationalities waved palm leaves or olive branches during an open air service in Saint Peter's Square.

Palm Sunday mass is also dedicated to young people who celebrate World Youth Day in local dioceses. Many of those in the square Sunday were Australian and Spaniards. At the end of the ceremony, young people from Australia, where the last World Youth Day was held in the presence of the Pope, handed a wooden cross to young people from Madrid, where the next World Youth Day will be celebrated.

The Pope says tomorrow the cross and the icon of the Virgin Mary will head to the Spanish capital for the Good Friday procession. Then it will start a long pilgrimage, visiting the dioceses in Spain, and return to Madrid in the summer of 2011.

Holy Week is one of the busiest times in the Christian calendar for Pope Benedict. He will preside over a number of solemn ceremonies, including the Good Friday remembrance of Christ's crucifixion and a mass on Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate his resurrection.