Pope Benedict XVI issued another strong appeal on Sunday for a humanitarian corridor to be opened to allow aid to get through to the displaced in Georgia. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.
Pope Benedict said he continues to follow with attention and concern the situation in Georgia and feels especially close to the victims of the conflict. The pope was speaking from his summer retreat in Castelgandolfo, in the hills south of Rome.
Addressing the pilgrims gathered in the palace's courtyard for the Sunday Angelus prayer, the pope issued a strong appeal for the urgent opening of humanitarian corridors between Georgia and the separatist region of South Ossetia to help people caught up in the fighting.
The pope said humanitarian corridors should be opened so that the dead can receive a dignified burial, the wounded can be properly treated and people can rejoin their loved ones.
Pope Benedict expressed the hope that a French-brokered cease-fire between Georgia and Russia will turn into a stable peace. He renewed his appeal to the international community to continue to work for a lasting solution through dialogue. He also called for the rights of ethnic minorities in the region to be guaranteed.
An estimated 120,000 people have been displaced by the fighting between Georgia and Russia, which began August 7 between Georgian troops and separatists in South Ossetia. Georgian forces say they acted after coming under Russian fire. Russia says it moved in to Georgia to protect its citizens in South Ossetia, many of whom have been given Russian passports.
The Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Sunday that his country's troops will begin withdrawing from Georgia on Monday.