Pope calls for release of Italian hostage

 Pope Benedict XVI yesterday called for the release of kidnapped Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni, who has been held for three weeks in Afghanistan. Speaking to thousands of pilgrims in St Peter's Square, the Holy Father said: "The painful experience our sister is living, is a catalyst for seeking, by any means, peaceful and brotherly relationships between individuals and nations." Ms Cantoni, who works for Care International, was abducted on May 16 by four armed men who stopped her vehicle on a street in central Kabul. Afghan and Italian negotiators have come close to freeing Cantoni several times in the last few days but talks broke down with the kidnappers who are believed to be part of a criminal gang, La Republica reported yesterday. Source: VIS

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