Pope says Iraq’s constitution should protect Christians

Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI speaking Monday in the wake of overnight attacks targeting Iraqi Christians, urged Iraq to incorporate measures in its constitution to protect the country’s minorities.

‘In Iraq too, reconciliation is urgently needed,’ the pontiff said in an address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican City state.

‘At present, terrorist attacks, threats and violence continue, especially against the (Iraqi) Christian community, and the news which arrived yesterday confirms our concern,’ the pontiff said referring to the latest violence.

Some seven attacks involving mortar shells, explosive devices and car bombs hit churches and monasteries in Baghdad and Mosul overnight Monday as orthodox Christians in Iraq – who observe a traditional form of the Gregorian calendar – were celebrating New Year’s Eve.

At least six people were wounded, including two guards, news reports said.

‘It is clear that certain difficult political issues remain unresolved. In this context, an appropriate constitutional reform will need to safeguard the rights of minorities’ in Iraq, Benedict told the diplomats.

In his address to representatives of the 176 states which have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, the pontiff also expressed his concern for other global conflict areas including Kenya.

Referring to the ‘abrupt outbreak of violence’ that has hit the East African nations in the wake of disputed elections, the pontiff said he joined Kenyan bishops in an appeal made on 2 January to political leaders ‘to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue based on justice and fraternity.’

Recalling the ‘family spirit’ that in May 2007 led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and the Vatican, Benedict said even those nations which have yet to establish such ties ‘have a place in the Pope`s heart.’