ROME - Pope Benedict expressed sympathy on Saturday for the victims of a suspected right-wing zealot who killed up to 98 people in a shooting spree and bomb attack and urged Norwegians to reject hatred and violence.

In a message to Norway's King Harald, the Vatican said the pontiff had been "profoundly saddened" by the attacks in the government district of Oslo and on Utoeya island northwest of the capital.

"His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI offers fervent prayers for the victims and their families, invoking God's peace upon the dead and divine consolation upon those who suffer," a statement said.

"At this time of national grief he prays that all Norwegians will be spiritually united in a determined resolve to reject the ways of hatred and conflict and to work together fearlessly in shaping a future of mutual respect, solidarity and freedom for coming generations."

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