05/12/2008, 00.00
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Pope: peace and security in the Holy Land for Jews, Palestinians, and Christians

Receiving the new Israeli ambassador, Benedict XVI speaks of the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state, and asks that Palestinians be given the freedom to manage their legitimate affairs. Preoccupation over the emigration of Christians, and the hope for a rapid conclusion of negotiations on the status of the Catholic Church.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Peace in the Holy Land, with a Palestinian state beside Israel, in such a way that Christians can put an end to their emigration, the conclusion of negotiations on the life of the Church in the Jewish state, and the promotion of more intense cultural exchange.  The presentation of the letters of credentials for Israel's new embassador, Mordechay Lewy, at the Vatican, gave Benedict XVI the opportunity to touch on the main points of the relationship between Rome and Jerusalem, including emphasis of the "central" importance of the two holy cities in the development of "Western culture".

Also significant was the request advanced by the pope, to "alleviate the hardship suffered by the Palestinian community, allowing them the freedom necessary to go about their legitimate business, including travel to places of worship, so that they too can enjoy greater peace and security. Clearly, these matters can only be addressed within the wider context of the Middle East peace process".

In his speech, Benedict XVI first of all expressed his good wishes for this 60th anniversary of the state, "(joining) you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled". He then affirmed that the Holy See recognises "Israel’s legitimate need for security and self-defence and strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism". At the same time, he recalled that "all peoples have a right to be given equal opportunities to flourish".

The pope made special mention of the situation of the Catholic Church and Christians within the Jewish state, and therefore of the negotiations in course on economic questions and the fiscal situation of ecclesiastical institutions, for which the government has said that it is committed "to a positive and rapid solution".  Benedict XVI expressed his hope for "legal" recognition of ecclesiastical institutions.  Another delicate topic in bilateral relations is that of entry visas for ecclesiastical personnel, especially if they are Palestinian.  "I am sure", he said on this subject, "you will do what you can to facilitate the resolution of the problems that remain in a manner acceptable to all parties. Only when these difficulties are overcome, will the Church be able to carry out freely her religious, moral, educational and charitable works in the land where she came to birth".

As for the "alarming decline in the Christian population of the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration", Benedict XVI acknowledged that Christians "are not alone in suffering the effects of insecurity and violence as a result of the various conflicts in the region, but in many respects they are particularly vulnerable at the present time". Recalling the traditionally good relations that Christians have had with both Jews and Muslims, the pope maintained that their presence in Israel can "contribute significantly to healing the divisions between the two communities".

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See also
Pope talks about the Middle East, the Holy Land and the food crisis with Bush
Tensions remain high as Israel shuts down West Bank crossings
UN and United States decry new homes in east Jerusalem
Netanyahu, peace problems and the Pope’s visit
Pope: peace for Middle East lies in respect for rights of all peoples


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