POPE John Paul appealed for the release of three kidnapped German children when he spoke to crowds at his summer house of Castelgandollo on Sunday.
I issue a pressing and anguished appeal to the kidnappers that they free the three children as soon as possible and give them back to their loving parents and thereby make a gesture of humanity," he said.
The children were kidnapped from their holiday home near Florence. They are Susanne and Sabina Kronzucker and their cousin Martin Wachtler. Masked men with sawn off shotguns dragged the teenagers from their Swimming Pool on Friday but have as yet made no ransom demand.
Italian police believe the kidnappers are members of a local gang acting to gain money. They discount speculation that German terrorists are involved. Two experts on kidnapping from the Wiesbanden police have joined Italians in the hunt for the gang.
Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, the Archbishop of Florence, also appealed lior the safe release of the children kidnapped in his diocese.
"I am making this appeal personally because you must realise that you have committed an inhuman act that has plunged into grief two families of people who are guests in our country," he said, on Italian radio. He added that he was ready to negotiate for their return.
POPE John Paul took part last week in a two hour song festival at at Castlegandolfo with about 250 young people from Northern Ireland. The session included religious and folk songs and papal recollection about his trip to Ireland.