Pope calls for release of seized Koreans(video)
( AP ) - Pope Benedict XVI called Sunday for the release of Korean hostages held in Afghanistan, saying their abduction represented "a grave violation of human dignity."
The 23 Koreans were seized by Taliban militants on July 19. One was fatally shot by his captors.
"I issue my appeal so that the perpetrators of such criminal acts desist from the evil they have carried out and give back their victims unharmed," the pope said, speaking from Castel Gandolfo, his summer retreat in the hills south of Rome.
"Unfortunately the habit of taking advantage of innocent people for partisan ends is spreading among armed groups," he said. "It is a grave violation of human dignity that is in contrast with every elementary norm of civility and law and gravely offends divine law."
The militant group has given a list of 23 insurgent prisoners it wants released in exchange for the hostages, a purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said. He said the militants might kill some hostages if the prisoners weren't released by midday Monday.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the kidnappings "shameful" on Sunday and said his government would "spare no effort" to secure the hostages' release.
Benedict also issued an appeal for nuclear disarmament, saying nuclear technology must be used to promote development and clean energy alternatives.
Benedict delivered his traditional Sunday prayer to hundreds of pilgrims gathered underneath the window of his palace in Castel Gandolfo. He moved there on Friday, after spending about three weeks in the Italian Alps.
The pontiff called for "encouraging the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, promoting a gradual and agreed-upon disarmament and encouraging the peaceful and safe use of nuclear technology" to achieve "tangible development" goals.