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Pope Urges Christians, Muslim Palestinians to Coexist

Pope Benedict XVI has urged Christian and Muslim Palestinians to work to repair the damage of past conflicts and coexist. The Pope spoke to tens of thousands of people attending Mass in the northern Galilee city of Nazareth, the place the Bible says was the hometown of Jesus.

The Pope brought a message of reconciliation to a city that has seen sporadic tensions between the large population of Muslims and the Christians, who have in recent decades become a minority.

Tens of thousands chanted, "Welcome, Benedict, to Nazareth!" They gathered at the Mount of the Precipice, a spot in Nazareth where the Bible says a crowd once tried to push Jesus off the top of mountain, after accusing him of blasphemy.

He said that just as Jesus' message had at times been a source of contradiction and conflict, Christians too are facing adversity because of their different beliefs and culture. He said Nazareth has experienced tensions in recent years which have harmed relations between Christian and Muslim communities.

"I urge people of good will in both communities to repair the damage that has been done, and in fidelity to our common belief in one God, the Father of the human family, to work to build bridges and find the way to peaceful coexistence," the Pope said.

He called on everyone to reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice.

The Pope also called for a defense of what he said is the sacredness of the family, which he said is based on lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman.

The Pope's schedule in Nazareth included a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On more than one occasion during his visit this week, the Pope has made statements that are not in agreement with Mr. Netanyahu's policies.

The pontiff has expressed the Vatican's support for the Palestinians' right to a homeland. Mr. Netanyahu, who took office recently, has yet to endorse the goal of a two-state solution, believing the Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves.

On Wednesday, the Pope visited a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and expressed solidarity with Arabs who were forced to flee their lands upon the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

At the camp, he pointed to an imposing concrete wall that is part of Israel's security barrier dividing Israeli territory from the West Bank as a stark reminder of the stalemate in relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Pope wraps up his week-long visit to the Holy Land on Friday.