CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday hailed the Irish Republican Army disarmament decision as “beautiful news” and urged all to work for a lasting peace after decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

Benedict, addressing pilgrims at his summer palace outside Rome, expressed “satisfaction and hope” over the development a few days earlier in which the Irish Republican Army met international demands to declare its 1997 cease-fire permanent and to renounce violence.

“I encourage everyone without exception to continue to travel down with courage the indicated path and to undertake further steps which will allow the strengthening of mutual trust, promote reconciliation and consolidate the negotiations aimed at just and lasting peace,” the pope said.

He said he was echoing a 1979 call by Pope John Paul II to “distance oneself from the paths of violence and return to the road to peace.”

In September of that year John Paul delivered an impassioned plea for a stop to the terrorist attacks that were then marking Roman Catholics’ efforts to wrest predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland from British control.

In the Irish town of Drogheda, 30 miles from the border with Northern Ireland, he told 250,000 people, mostly from Northern Ireland: “On my knees, I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace.”

The IRA on Thursday announced it was renouncing the use of violence against British rule in Northern Ireland and would disarm.

“As you know, in the last few days, the Irish Republican Army of Northern Ireland announced it has formally ordered the end of the armed struggle in favor of the exclusive use of peaceful negotiations,” Benedict told tourists and pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the palace in the Alban Hills southeast of Rome.

“It’s beautiful news which contrasts with the sorrowful business to which we are daily witness in so many parts of the world and which rightly has sparked satisfaction and hope in that island and in the entire community,” Benedict said.

“For my part, I am particularly joyful to unite myself to such sentiments,” he said.

The pope was making his traditional Sunday noon public appearance. He moved into his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo earlier in the week after flying back from an Alpine vacation in northern Italy.

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