Pope Benedict held mass at Saint Peter's Basilica Sunday to mark the closing of a two-week special synod of bishops on the Middle East. He used the occasion to issue a strong call for peace in the region.
The pope said one must never resign oneself to the lack of peace. Peace is possible, it is urgent and it is the indispensable condition for a life worthy of the human person and of society.
The pope addressed participants to the special synod for the Middle East, who have been meeting in the Vatican for two weeks. He said in recent days they shared the joys, pains, concerns and hopes of Christians in the region.
In his homily, the pope called for dialogue, saying that persistent conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have plagued the Middle East.
The pope said Christians can help promote authentic religious freedom, a fundamental right that every state should respect. He said that in many Middle Eastern countries the space for religious freedom is often very limited.
Pope Benedict added that widening this space of freedom is necessary to guarantee to members of the various religious communities true freedom to live and profess their faith. And this, he said, could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was stressed by the synod participants.
In its final statement from the synod, bishops urged Israel to accept U.N. resolutions calling for an end to the occupation of Arab lands. It also said Israel should not use the Bible to justify injustices against Palestinians.
The bishops repeated a Vatican call for a special status for Jerusalem that respects its character as a city sacred to the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.