POPE JOHN Paul II has promised to pray for the 500 Moluccan refugees who drowned when a ferry carrying them away from Indonesia's violence-torn Molucca Islands capsized.
The Holy Father said he also prayed "with all my strength" for peace and security for those islands tormented by violence.
Over 10,000 Christians from Ambon are desperately waiting to be evacuated from the island, amid fears of an imminent large-scale attack on the city by Muslims.
The deteriorating situation has forced local Catholic and Protestant leaders to call on the United Nations to protect their Christian communities.
Although Indonesia is a mostly Muslim state, the Moluccas have a large Christian population. Since November, the islands have been the scene of intense fighting between Muslim and Catholic gangs. The conflict recently intensified when radical Islamic Jihad warriors were able to enter the Spice Islands from other regions of Indonesia to fight local Christians.
Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston has written to the Indonesian ambassador to the US to express concern over the Moluccas.