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Pope calls on leaders to accept more refugees

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VATICAN CITY, June 20 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict appealed to government leaders on Wednesday to accept more refugees.

For Christians, helping refugees was "a concrete way of demonstrating evangelical love", he said at his weekly audience which coincided with the United Nations' World Refugee Day.

"Welcoming refugees and offering them hospitality is for everyone a rightful gesture of human solidarity, so that they do not feel isolated as a result of intolerance and indifference," Benedict told pilgrims.

"I invite the leaders of nations to offer protection to those who find themselves in such delicate situations of need." The first sharp rise in refugee numbers since 2002 occurred last year, largely due to crises in the Middle East, Darfur and the Horn of Africa, according to the United Nations.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, told Reuters on Wednesday 2007 "is a very bad year for refugees worldwide".

"Now there are almost 10 million who have been expelled from their homes by insecurity, and that number is growing," he said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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