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Pope Francis arrives in Bethlehem, renews call for peace, religious freedom

Catholic World News - May 25, 2014

Pope Francis departed from Jordan on May 25, the second day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and arrived in Bethlehem, where he met with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

“For decades the Middle East has known the tragic consequences of a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal,” Pope Francis said. “Even in the absence of violence, the climate of instability and a lack of mutual understanding have produced insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation and the flight of entire communities, conflicts, shortages and sufferings of every sort.”

“In expressing my closeness to those who suffer most from this conflict, I wish to state my heartfelt conviction that the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable,” he continued. “The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.”

“I pray that the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and their respective leaders will undertake this promising journey of peace with the same courage and steadfastness needed for every journey,” Pope Francis added. “Peace in security and mutual trust will become the stable frame of reference for confronting and resolving every other problem, and thus provide an opportunity for a balanced development, one which can serve as a model for other crisis areas.”

As he did upon arriving in Jordan the previous day, Pope Francis appealed for religious freedom:

I express my appreciation for the efforts being made to draft an agreement between the parties regarding various aspects of the life of the Catholic community in this country, with particular attention to religious freedom. Respect for this fundamental human right is, in fact, one of the essential conditions for peace, fraternity and harmony. It tells the world that it is possible and necessary to build harmony and understanding between different cultures and religions. It also testifies to the fact that, since the important things we share are so many, it is possible to find a means of serene, ordered and peaceful coexistence, accepting our differences and rejoicing that, as children of the one God, we are all brothers and sisters.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - May. 27, 2014 12:44 PM ET USA

    And Israel does not recognize the Palestinians right to exist either. They want all of the land to be taken away from the Palestinians as is evidenced by the continuing illegal settlements.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 25, 2014 7:12 AM ET USA

    And what practical assurances will be received that this is not more diplomatic posturing? Any number of Arabs (and others) do not recognize Israel's fundamental right to exist.

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