Source AP ©

Pope Benedict XVI condemns arsonists

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday condemned arsonists, who authorities blame for many of the fires. He said that their "criminal acts" and "irresponsible behavior" were the reason of Greece’s and Italy’s devastation and killed dozens of people.

"One cannot help being worried by the irresponsible behavior of those who put human safety at risk and destroy the environment," Benedict said during his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square.

"I join those who rightly stigmatize such criminal acts and I invite all to pray for the victims of these tragedies," he said.

Massive wildfires in Greece have killed at least 64 people and independent estimates say around 200,000 hectares (495,000 acres) of forest, olive groves and scrub may have been consumed. On Wednesday, firefighters said all major blazes were receding.

The situation has also improved in Italy after hundreds of blazes raged through the south of the country over the summer. Four people were killed last week when a wildfire consumed a hotel near the port city of Messina, Sicily, and two shepherds have been arrested for allegedly setting the blaze.

Italian authorities say arsonists are often linked to organized crime groups seeking to clear land for pasture or illegal construction. Government officials in Athens have also pointed to arson, with Greece's National Intelligence Service and police's anti-terrorism division joining the investigation into the fires.

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