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Pope Criticizes Israeli Security Barrier - 2004-02-12


Pope John Paul II has again criticized the security barrier Israel is building on the West Bank. The pope spoke during a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia at the Vatican.

During the brief meeting the pope told Mr. Qureia that if reconciliation is to be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians, what is needed is forgiveness not revenge, bridges not walls. The Pope added that this requires all leaders in the region to follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation.

Israel says the barrier is needed to keep suicide bombers out of the country. But Palestinians say it amounts to nothing but land-grabbing by the Israelis, since it cuts deep into the West Bank in some areas.

Pope John Paul II recalled his visit to the Holy Land in 2000. He said that while signs of hope have not been altogether absent in the region, the sad situation that exists is a cause of suffering for all.

But he urged all parties not to yield to the temptation of discouragement, let alone to hatred or retaliation.

Pope John Paul II has long supported the Palestinian cause, but has maintained that the security of Israelis must also be guaranteed.

The Palestinian prime minister arrived Tuesday in Rome and met with Italian leaders, including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Berlusconi pledged more economic and diplomatic assistance for the Palestinian people.