During his historic apostolic visit to the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI fulfilled the hopes of the Palestinian people when he visited Bethlehem. During his visit to the birthplace of Jesus Christ, he called for the creation of a Palestinian state and urged the Palestinian youth to spurn violence and work for peace.
The Pontiff reiterated the Holy See’s support for “the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally recognized borders.”
The Israeli government has erected a security wall along its border and through the West Bank. The Holy Father’s visit to the Mideast has provided the opportunity to give voice to the need for a secure and just peace in the region. Of particular concern for the Holy Father is the well-being of the Christian minority, especially those in Palestine, who continue to emigrate in large numbers to other countries as they flee the violence and injustice. Pope Benedict called for “a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, in which the rights and dignity of all are acknowledged and upheld.”
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem reminded the Holy Father of the strong hope that Palestinian Christians experienced when the late Pope John Paul II visited the region in 2000. However, the Patriarch suggested that “we were hoping for a peace that never came.” Pope Benedict’s historic trip offers renewed hope to the beleaguered Palestinian people that the much longed for peace may soon arrive. He reminded the international community that “with full respect for the demands of justice, lasting peace can be attained in these lands.”
President Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this week to discuss a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We urge the president to follow the Holy Father’s lead and press the Israeli government to support the creation of a Palestinian state. We remind both leaders of the words of Pope John Paul II and echoed again this week by Pope Benedict. “There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.” Justice demands that a Palestinian state be created so that the hope of the long suffering Palestinian people can at last be fulfilled.