Pope endorses Palestinian homeland

Bethlehem, May 13:

Pope Benedict XVI called today for a Palestinian homeland and urged youths to resist temptation for “terrorism” in his first trip to the occupied West Bank.

“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 its neighbours, within internationally recognised borders,” he said at the welcoming ceremony in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. The pope spoke after passing through an imposing checkpoint in Israel’s controversial 25-foot-high wall that surrounds a section of Bethlehem and forms part of a barrier that Israel says is essential to its security but which the Palestinians see as a symbol of an “apartheid” regime.

In the midst of an eight-day Holy Land pilgrimage, the pope reiterated his call for peace to come to a land revered by the world’s three main monotheistic faiths that has been torn by decades of violence.

“In particular I call on the international community to bring its influence to bear in favour of a solution.” And he appealed to young people living in the Palestinian territories not to “allow the loss of life and the destruction that you have witnessed to arouse bitterness or resentment in your hearts.

“Have the courage to resist any temptation you may feel to resort to acts of violence or terrorism. Instead, let what you have experienced renew your determination to build peace.” Welcoming the 82-year-old pontiff, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas slammed the 42-year Israeli occupation and the severe restrictions on movement faced by his people in their lands.