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Pope Declares Special Day of Prayer for Middle East Peace

Pope Benedict has declared Sunday a special day of prayer for Middle East peace.

He also renewed an appeal for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Benedict issued his plea as he spoke to thousands of pilgrims at his summer retreat in the Italian Alps.

The pontiff reiterated statements supporting Lebanon's sovereignty and Israel's right to live in peace. He expressed a special closeness to what he called the "defenseless civilian populations unjustly hit in a conflict in which they are only victims."

He said those victims include those in northern Israel forced to live in shelters to avoid Hezbollah rocket attacks, and "the multitudes of Lebanese who once again are seeing their country destroyed."

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.