VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI appealed for a suspension of fighting in Libya and the immediate start of a serious dialogue aimed at restoring peace to the North African country.
Speaking at his weekly blessing March 27, the pope said he was increasingly concerned at the news from Libya, where rebels supported by U.S. and European airstrikes have battled the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
"My fear for the safety and well-being of the civilian population is growing, as is my apprehension over how the situation is developing with the use of arms," the pope said.
"To international agencies and to those with political and military responsibility, I make a heartfelt appeal for the immediate start of a dialogue that will suspend the use of arms," he said.
The pope said that in moments of great international tension, there was more urgency for diplomatic efforts that take advantage of "even the weakest sign of openness to reconciliation" among the parties in conflict. Solutions should be "peaceful and lasting," he said.
The pope offered a prayer for "the return of harmony in Libya" and throughout North Africa.