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Pope urges 'two-state solution' as he ends Holy Land pilgrimage

© Vladimir RodionovПапа Римский Бенедикт XVI
Папа Римский Бенедикт XVI - Sputnik International
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Pope Benedict rounded off his five-day tour of the Middle East on Friday by reiterating his appeal for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians so each can live in their own state.

TEL AVIV, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - Pope Benedict rounded off his five-day tour of the Middle East on Friday by reiterating his appeal for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians so each can live in their own state.

He also denounced the Holocaust, saying "that appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied."

Speaking at Tel Aviv's airport before flying to Rome, the pope said: "Let it be universally recognized that the state of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders.

"Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."

He told Israel's new government, which has been reluctant to endorse the two-state solution, that "my prayers and the prayers of Catholics across the world are with you as you continue your efforts to build a just and lasting peace in this region."

The 82-year-old pontiff said the wall separating the West Bank was "one of the saddest sights" during his pilgrimage.

"As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation."

Israel says the wall was erected as protection against Palestinian terrorism, but the Palestinians argue the wall, mainly located within the West Bank, was an attempt to annex Palestinian land. Opponents also say it restricts Palestinians' ability to travel freely in the region and their access to work in Israel.

The pontiff, a native German of the WWII generation, said his visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial was "one of the most solemn moments of my stay in Israel." The pope's speech at the memorial was described by local media as "disappointing and lukewarm."

"At Yad Vashem, those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews ... were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred," he said.

"Those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love," he added.

The pope's tour, described by the Vatican as a non-political religious pilgrimage, included meetings with leaders during visits to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Israeli President Shimon Peres described the visit as "a moving and important event bringing the spirit of peace and hope."

When in Jerusalem, along with Christian shrines, Pope Benedict XVI visited holy sites of Islam and Judaism. He conducted services in Nazareth and Bethlehem, centers of Christian pilgrimage as the childhood home and the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and in Jerusalem.

 

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