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Pope Benedict Condemns Religious Violence in Iraq, Nigeria

Pope Benedict XVI says God will severely punish those who kill in His name. In condemning religious violence, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church referred specifically to the bombing of a Shi'ite mosque in Iraq and the torching of Christian churches in Nigeria.

Addressing a large crowd gathered in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI said the upsurge of violence in recent days in Iraq, including attacks on mosques, is tragic. His words were a direct reference to the bombing Wednesday of the Shi'ite Askariya shrine in Samarra.

He said the bombing and violence in Iraq are actions that sow death, feed hatred and seriously hinder the already difficult work of reconstruction in the country. More than 200 people have died in Iraq in just four days of violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

Pope Benedict then turned his thoughts to another country, which is experiencing sectarian violence: Nigeria.

In Nigeria, he said, there have been clashes between Christians and Muslims for a number of days that have left many victims, and caused destruction of churches and mosques. More than 150 people have been killed in the past week.

Pope Benedict firmly condemned religious violence and the violation of places of worship. He said God would demand an even more severe explanation from those who shed the blood of their brothers in His name.