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Pope Gives State of the World Address - 2002-01-10

Pope John Paul II Thursday devoted his annual state of the world address to areas of crisis. The Middle East, the India-Pakistani dispute, the Argentine crisis and the war against terrorism were among the main issues he touched on.

The Holy Land was again one of the pope's main concerns as he addressed diplomats from all over the world in the Vatican. It has become, in the pope's words, "through no man's fault, a land of fire and blood."

Focusing on the difficult situation in the Middle East, the pope said no one could remain indifferent to the injustices that the Palestinian people have suffered for over 50 years. But, he added, that no one could contest the right of Israelis to live in security.

The pope denounced what he called the "law of retaliation" between Israelis and Palestinians, saying "weapons and bloody attacks will never be the right means for making a political statement to the other side."

Recalling the innocent victims who, on both sides, fall day after day under the blows of violence, the pope said that: "One against the other, neither Israelis nor Palestinians can win the war but together they can win peace."

The pope repeated that in order to bring peace to the Middle East the legitimate aspirations of the people living there must be respected and the occupied territories must be evacuated. In addition, as has been said time and again by the Holy See, holy sites in Jerusalem must be given a special internationally guaranteed status.

The pope also expressed his concern about the growing tensions between India and Pakistan, nations that share a border and have a long-standing dispute over Kashmir. He urged political leaders of these countries "to give absolute priority to dialogue and negotiation."

The political and economic crisis in Argentina prompted the pope to urge leaders in the South American country to set aside private or party interests.

Pope John Paul also spoke about the U.S. war on terrorism, which he referred to as "legitimate" following the terrorist attacks on September 11. He strongly rejected the concept of killing in God's name, which he said "is an act of blasphemy and a perversion of religion". "Terrorist violence," the pope added, "is a contradiction of faith in God."