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Pope Appeals for Release of Hostages

Pope John Paul II (searchappealed Sunday for the release of hostages in Iraq, calling on the kidnappers to show "humanity."

John Paul said he was following events in the Holy Land and Iraq (search) with great sadness.

"I am particularly close in thought and prayer to the families of all those who fear for the fate of their loved ones, especially all those who have been taken hostage," the pontiff said.

"I invite the kidnappers to have feelings of humanity," the pope said in his weekly appearance from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square (search).

"I entreat them to give back to the families the persons who are in their hands, while I pray to merciful God for the populations of the Holy Land and Iraq and for all those in that region who work for reconciliation and peace," the pope said.

One of four Italians taken hostage was killed earlier in the week, and the men's families have implored the kidnappers to release the others.

Fifteen foreigners are missing in a spate of abductions that erupted alongside some of the worst violence in the country since the U.S.-led invasion. They include two Americans who have been confirmed kidnapped.

A Dane and a businessman from the United Arab Emirates were reported seized on Friday.