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St Pedro de Betancur

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North Ireland: thousands flock to peace rallies, Pope condemns violence

 Thousands of people yesterday attended a series of vigils, across Northern Ireland to show their anger at the murders of two soldiers: Mark Qunsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21 and policeman Stephen Carroll by dissident Republicans.

Silent protests, organised by trade unions, took place in Belfast, Lisburn, Newry, Downpatrick and Londonderry. A peace vigil was also held in Craigavon, County Armagh, near the site where Constable Carroll was shot dead on Monday. His Requiem Mass is due to take place at St Therese Church in Banbridge,County Down on Friday.

Catholic and Protestant politicians joined forces with demonstrators in Belfast and other cities in a show of unity not seen in decades. even members of rival paramilitiary units took part.

At the end of yesterday's general audience the Holy Father made an appeal for an end to violence in Northern Ireland.

Pope Benedict said: "It was with deep sorrow that I learned of the murders of two young British soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland. As I assure the families of the victims and the injured of my spiritual closeness, I condemn in the strongest terms these abominable acts of terrorism which, apart from desecrating human life, seriously endanger the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland and risk destroying the great hopes generated by this process in the region and throughout the world. I ask the Lord that no one will again give in to the horrendous temptation of violence and that all will increase their efforts to continue building - through the patient effort of dialogue - a peaceful, just and reconciled society".

Source: VIS/BN