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Pope calls for Palestinian homeland

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 14, 2009

Pope Benedict was met by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on his arrival in Bethlehem.


Pope Benedict was met by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on his arrival in Bethlehem. (Reuters: Fadi Arouri)


Pope Benedict has visited the West Bank, offering Vatican support for a Palestinian state alongside Israel and the comfort of Christian faith to Palestinian refugees in the town of Jesus’s birth.

After travelling through the snaking Israeli security walls that separate Bethlehem from nearby Jerusalem on the third day of a tour of the Holy Land, the Pope was greeted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Abbas accused Israel of trying to drive out Muslims and Christians through burdensome security measures.

Pope Benedict renewed the Vatican’s support for a two-state solution to the conflict – a solution supported by major Western powers but which new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reluctant to fully endorse.

“I know how much you have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades,” he said.

“My heart goes out to all the families who have lost so much.”

He added that he would visit a refugee camp for families who fled what is now Israel at its founding in 1948.

During his visit, some Jewish leaders have criticised the Pope for not apologising as a German and a Christian for the Holocaust during a speech he made at a memorial to the victims.

Yesterday, the official Vatican spokesman raised eyebrows by saying the German-born pontiff was never a member of the Hitler Youth, contradicting previous quotes from the Pope.

Reverend Federico Lombardi did not say why the Vatican had not issued a denial about the Pope’s membership in the Hitler Youth in the past.

Rev. Lombardi made a distinction between convinced Hitler Youth activists and members of anti-aircraft units, omitting the category of involuntary Hitler Youth members to which Benedict has been quoted as saying he belonged.

On Wednesday, Pope Benedict had particular words of concern for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who suffered during an Israeli offensive in January.

“Mr President, the Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with your neighbours, within internationally recognised borders,” he said, addressing Mr Abbas.

On his first visit to the region, the Pope recalled the message on a similar trip in 2000 by his predecessor, John Paul II: “There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness,” he said.

The Pope returns to Rome on Friday.


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