VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II has called for an immediate return to negotiations by Israelis and Palestinians and urged bishops from the Middle East to do all they can to keep Catholics from leaving the region.
The Pope said the combination of violence and economic hardship was continuing to threaten the historic presence of Christians in the Holy Land.
He made the remarks in a speech on March 17 to bishops of the Middle East, who were making their ad limina visits to the Vatican.
For many of the Middle East bishops, the dominant pastoral factor has been conflict, especially in the Israeli-occupied territories of the Palestinian territories.
The Pope said the recent escalation of violence in the Holy Land had “sorely tested the hopes for peace”.
“I sincerely hope that negotiations can be resumed quickly, focusing above all on the respect for the dignity of every person, who has the right to live in peace and security in his own territory,” the Pope said.