Source AP ©

Pope rejoices with Iraqi people over Asia Cup soccer victory

Pope Benedict XVI shared Iraq's joy at their spectacular victory in the Asia Cup soccer championship and saw in the celebrations Iraqis' desire for normality, he told several thousand pilgrims and tourists at the end of his weekly general audience Wednesday.

"Just as so many times I have cried with the Iraqi people, on this occasion I rejoiced with them," said the pope, who has just returned from a nearly three-week vacation in the northern Italian Alps.

The pope called Iraq's weekend 1-0 victory over three-time champions Saudi Arabia an "historic success" and said he was impressed by the celebrations that spilled over onto Iraq's streets.

"This experience of joyful sharing reveals the desire of a people to have a normal and serene life," the pope said. "It is my hope that this event, with everyone's support, may contribute to a future in Iraq of real peace in liberty and mutual respect."

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