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Pope Francis arrives in Israel, appeals for dialogue, condemns anti-Semitism

Catholic World News - May 25, 2014

Pope Francis arrived in Tel Aviv on the afternoon of May 25, the second day of his three-day Holy Land pilgrimage, and was greeted by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I have come on pilgrimage to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic visit of Pope Paul VI,” Pope Francis said at the beginning of his remarks at the welcoming ceremony. “Since then, much has changed in the relationship between the Holy See and the State of Israel: diplomatic relations, established some twenty years ago, have favored the development of good relations, as witnessed by the two agreements already signed and ratified, and a third which is in the process of being finalized.”

“I have come as a pilgrim to the Holy Land, rich in history and home to the principal events in the origin and growth of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” he continued. “So I express my hope and prayer that this blessed land may be one which has no place for those who, by exploiting and absolutizing the value of their own religious tradition, prove intolerant and violent towards those of others.”

Renewing his appeal for Israeli-Palestinian peace and dialogue, the Pope said that

I implore those in positions of responsibility to leave no stone unturned in the search for equitable solutions to complex problems, so that Israelis and Palestinians may live in peace. The path of dialogue, reconciliation and peace must constantly be taken up anew, courageously and tirelessly. There is simply no other way. And so I renew the appeal made in this place by Pope Benedict XVI: the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized. At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The “Two State Solution” must become reality and not remain merely a dream.

Lamenting the May 24 shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, Pope Francis denounced anti-Semitism and said that

A particularly moving part of my stay will be my visit to the Yad Vashem Memorial to the six million Jews who were victims of the Shoah, a tragedy which is the enduring symbol of the depths to which human evil can sink when, spurred by false ideologies, it fails to recognize the fundamental dignity of each person, which merits unconditional respect regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief. I beg God that there will never be another such crime, which counted among its victims Jews above all, but also numerous Christians and others. Ever mindful of the past, let us promote an education in which exclusion and confrontation give way to inclusion and encounter, where there will be no place for anti-Semitism in any of its forms or for expressions of hostility, discrimination or intolerance towards any individual or people.

“To the bishops and the Christian faithful, I offer a warm and fraternal greeting,” he added. “I encourage them to persevere in their quiet witness of faith and hope in the service of reconciliation and forgiveness, following the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus, who gave his life to bring about peace between God and man, and between brothers. May you always be a leaven of reconciliation, bringing hope to others, bearing witness to charity! Know that you are constantly in my prayers.”

Pope Francis concluded by repeating his earlier invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to join him at the Vatican for “heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.” The Associated Press has reported that both presidents have accepted the Pope’s invitation.

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