Pope calls for prayers for Syria, children gone missing around world

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pray for victims of recent
terrorist attacks in Syria and pray that those who sow death and destruction
will change their ways, Pope Francis said in an appeal.

At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s
Square May 25, the pope mentioned a string of attacks to hit “beloved
Syria” May 23, causing the death of “defenseless civilians.”

At least 150 people were killed in separate, but nearly
simultaneous explosions in the cities of Jableh and Tartus. Militants of the
Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the civilian
targets, which included a hospital.

Before leading the “Hail Mary,” the pope asked
that everyone pray for the “eternal repose of the victims, solace for the
relatives” and that God would “convert the hearts of those who sow
death and destruction.”

Also at the audience, the pope marked International
Missing Children’s Day with an appeal to civil and religious leaders to raise
people’s awareness and inspire action in protecting vulnerable children.

“It is the duty of everyone to protect children,
most of all those exposed to a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and
deviant behaviors,” the pope said.

He said he hoped civil and religious leaders could
“rattle” people’s consciences and raise awareness so that no one
would be indifferent to the problem of children who are “alone, exploited
and removed from their families and social context, children who cannot grow up
in peace and look to the future with hope.”

He invited everyone to pray that every missing child
would be “returned to the affection of their own loved ones.”

According to the International Center for Missing and
Exploited Children, more than 8 million children around the world go missing
every year. These children face increased danger of falling victim to abuse,
exploitation and illegal activities, it said.

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