Mgr Martinelli: Libyans full of optimism and a desire to start over

Back in Libya, the apostolic vicar of Tripoli describes the euphoria that has swept the Libyan capital after it was liberated by the rebels. The city’s Catholic community re-emerges after months of airstrikes. Fierce fighting between rebels and loyalists continues in Sirte, Bani Walid and Sebha, Gaddafi’s last strongholds.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) – “A wind of optimism is blowing in Tripoli; people want reconciliation and a new start,” Mgr Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of Tripoli, told AsiaNews after returning a few days ago to Libya from Italy where he had gone for medical treatment.

“Arriving in town I saw people celebrating,” the prelate said. People from all walks of life have new hope after 40 years of dictatorship and six months of war. “In the streets, you see people talk about everything and this is sign that they don’t have fear any more.”

Tripoli’s small Catholic community has also restarted its activities. “With no more air strikes, Catholics are coming back,” Mgr Martinelli said. “This week we started liturgical services in the Vicariate church, with mostly Filipino migrants.”

Filipinos work mostly in hospitals as nurses and doctors. They were the only Catholics who stayed behind to bear witness among Libyans, and this despite the bombs and fighting. The prelate is confident that in a few months, other Catholics would return to Libya.

Meanwhile, the war against Gaddafi continues. Fierce fighting continues around Sirte, Bani Walid and Sebha, the last strongholds of Libya’s fallen strongman who refuses to give up.

Combat between Gaddafi loyalists and rebels also continues to kill and wound civilians. NATO planes and helicopters are the only bringing in supplies for the population.

Moussa Ibrahim, spokesman for the Gaddafi regime, said that today loyalist forces captured 17 mercenaries in Bani Walid. Describing them as French and British ‘technical experts’, he said that they would be presented on TV but did not provide any more details.

Despite the instability, diplomatic action continues as the national Council of Transition (NCT) tries to achieve full recognition by the entire international community.

In fact, tomorrow, the NTC will represent Libya at the 66th General Assembly of the United Nations, the first time since the fall of Gaddafi.

On the margins of the assembly, NCT representatives will meet diplomats from the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United States to discuss Libya’s future and the renewal of economic agreements, including the friendship treaty with Italy. (S.C.)

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