Pontiff Notes Fundamental Need in Mideast Conflict

Reiterates Right to Homeland

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says peace in the Holy Land is possible, and that it hinges on Israelis and Palestinians recognizing their mutual right to a homeland.



The Pope took up this theme today when he delivered his traditional New Year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

The Holy Father's address for 2010 centered on the issue of respect for creation and the environment, the same theme he highlighted in his Jan. 1 message for the World Day of Peace.

The Pontiff recalled how during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land last May, he "urgently appealed to the Israelis and the Palestinians to dialogue and to respect each others' rights."

He continued: "Once again I call for a universal recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and to enjoy peace and security within internationally recognized borders. Likewise, the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign and independent homeland, to live in dignity and to enjoy freedom of movement, ought to be recognized."

And the Bishop of Rome made a particular appeal for the city of Jerusalem, which is important for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

He called for everyone's support in "the protection of the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem, and of its cultural and religious heritage, which is of universal value."

"Only thus will this unique city, holy yet deeply afflicted, be a sign and harbinger of that peace which God desires for the whole human family," the Pope affirmed.

Christian persecution

Benedict XVI also called attention to nations where Christians are facing persecution for their faith.

Regarding Iraq, he said: "Out of love for the dialogue and peace which protect creation, I exhort the government leaders and the citizens of Iraq to overcome their divisions and the temptation to violence and intolerance, in order to build together the future of their country.

"The Christian communities also wish to make their own contribution, but if this is to happen, they need to be assured respect, security and freedom."

The Pontiff also noted how Pakistan has been "hard hit by violence in recent months and certain episodes were directly aimed at the Christian minority."

"I ask that everything be done to avoid the reoccurrence of such acts of aggression, and to ensure that Christians feel fully a part of the life of their country," he said.

The Pope also referred to the Christmas Eve attack that resulted in the death of six Coptic Christians.

And concerning Iran, he said, "I express my hope that through dialogue and cooperation joint solutions will be found on the national as well as the international level."

Signs of hope

Benedict XVI also highlighted some countries where conflicts show signs of settling: "I encourage Lebanon, which has emerged from a lengthy political crisis, to continue along the path of concord.

"I hope that Honduras, after a period of uncertainty and unrest, will move towards a recovery of normal political and social life. I desire the same for Guinea and Madagascar with the effective and disinterested aid of the international community."

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