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Pope urges Italy to respect migrants

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday denounced a wave of violence against African farm workers in southern Italy which left more than 70 people injured over the weekend.

Many African migrant workers rampaged through the  town of Rosarno, in Calabria after two migrants were wounded in a shooting. At least three dozen people, including several policemen, were injured in two days of clashes between the migrants, police and residents.  Hundreds of African workers were evacuated by bus from the town by the authorities.

The African migrants work for very poor wages and are housed in very unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. Commentators believe the attacks were linked to organised crime in the area.

Addressing pilgrims in St Peter's Square yesterday, the  Pope said immigrants to Italy were looking for a better life in a country that needs them, yet they run the risk of exploitation because of their status.

Pope Benedict said: "An immigrant is a human being, different only in where he comes from, his culture and tradition... I invite everyone to look in the face of those nearby and see their soul, their history and their life and say to themselves: it is a man and God loves him as God loves me."

"He is a person to respect and with rights and responsibilities, and should be respected particularly in the working world where there is an temptation to exploit."

"We have to go to the heart of the problem, of the significance of the human being."  But, he said: "Violence must never be a means to solve difficulties."

Pope Benedict also denounced attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt which left seven people dead.

"Let there never be violence in the name of God!" Benedict said.