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(E) Pope leads prayers for rain in Croatia, Europe
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  08/10/2003 | Religion | Unrated
(E) Pope leads prayers for rain in Croatia, Europe


Pope leads prayers for rain inCroatia, Europe

Forecasters have warned the heat is set to continue

Pope John Paul II has led prayers for rain as temperatures across Europe continue to soar.

Speaking to hundreds of pilgrims and tourists visiting him at his summer residence south of Rome, the Pope expressed sorrow for deaths caused by the relentless heat.

He also regretted the damage wreaked on the environment by forest fires which have destroyed woodland from Portugal to the Netherlands and Greece.

Forecasters have warned that the high temperatures are unlikely to drop until mid-August.

"I ask you to join me in my prayer for the victims of this calamity and urge all of you to ask the Lord fervently to grant the thirsty Earth the coolness of rain," the Pope said.

He was speaking in Castel Gondolfo, a lakeside town where the weather is generally much cooler for the 83-year-old Pontiff.

Raging wildfires

Temperatures across the continent have regularly exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) over the past two weeks, leading to some 40 deaths. It is not just humans who are suffering in the heat

Summer fires have also destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of pinewood and brush across the continent, most of it in Portugal.

They are still burning in Spain, Croatia, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, and France.

The extreme heat is being partly attributed to intense monsoon activity in sub-Saharan Africa which has poured hot desert air over Europe while keeping out cooler Atlantic lows.

Also across Europe:

* French police arrested five suspected arsonists in connection with a forest fire which broke out near the southern city of Nice on Friday
* In the Paris area firefighters say they are dealing with 600 calls every day for people suffering from the heat
* The UK recorded its highest ever temperature, with a temperature of 37.9 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) recorded at Heathrow airport, west of London

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