War In The Balkans: Pope asks Milosevic to allow aid corridor

Easter Message
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The Independent Online
POPE JOHN Paul II called on the Yugoslav government to open a humanitarian corridor yesterday to help to save the thousands of refugees from the "martyred land of Kosovo".

He used his Easter Day Mass to appeal to both sides to lay down their weapons and re-start negotiations, imploring: "Enough of this cruel shedding of human blood."

Before 30,000 worshippers at St Peter's Square in Rome, the Pontiff said: "On this holy day I feel duty-bound to make a heartfelt appeal to the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to allow a humanitarian corridor to be opened in order for help to be brought to the mass of people gathered at the border of Kosovo.

"There can be no frontiers to impede the work of solidarity; corridors of hope are always an imperative."

Earlier, Pope John Paul had said: "How can we speak of peace when people are forced to flee, when they are hunted down and their homes are burnt to the ground? When their heavens are rent by the din of war, when the whistle of shells is heard around people's homes and the ravaging fire of bombs consumes towns and villages?

"When will there be an end to the diabolic spiral of revenge and senseless fratricidal conflicts? From the Risen Lord I invoke the precious gift of peace above all for the devastated land of Kosovo, where tears and blood continue to mingle in a tragic spectacle of hatred and violence."

Last Thursday, the Pope sent his foreign minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, to Belgrade to attempt to negotiate a peaceful settlement. The Pope's strategy - to no avail - was to urge all sides in the conflict to observe a truce from the Western Christian Easter on 4 April until the Eastern Orthodox Easter on 11 April.

During yesterday's Mass, Pope John Paul said his thoughts were also with people in troublespots in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

n In his Easter sermon, Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the "evil of ethnic cleansing" was leading to the "crucifixion" of Kosovo.

Backing the Nato action against the Serbs, he added: "Military action thus far is recognition that the civilised world cannot stand idly by and accept that evil should triumph." He said he hoped the same effort that has gone into the Nato assaults would be exercised in helping the victims of the conflict to rebuild their lives.