VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican praised President Barack Obama's proposals for curbing gun violence, saying they are a "step in a right direction."

The Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said yesterday that 47 religious leaders have appealed to members of the U.S. Congress "to limit firearms that are making society pay an unacceptable price in terms of massacres and senseless deaths."

"I am with them," Lombardi said in an editorial carried on Vatican Radio, lining up the Vatican's moral support in favor of firearm limits.

"The initiatives announced by the American administration for limiting and controlling the spread and use of weapons are certainly a step in the right direction," Lombardi said.

Obama is trying to rally support for reinstating a ban on assault weapons and requiring background checks on all gun sales. He faces stiff opposition in Congress and from powerful gun lobbies.

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While massacres are "carried out by unbalanced or hate-driven persons, there is no doubt that they are carried out with firearms," Lombardi said.

-- AP