Pope Francis appealed repeatedly to peace in the Middle East during his visit to the Holy Land in reference to the Syrian war and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He made an unscheduled stop at the separation wall near Bethlehem to pray there and invited the presidents of Israel and Palestine to go to the Vatican to pray together for peace with him, an invitation that according to the Vatican spokesman they both are considering.
Last saturday in Jordan, meeting a group of refugees and disabled young people he said that “we are profoundly affected by the tragedies and suffering of our times, particularly those caused by ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. I think particularly of beloved Syria, rent by nearly three years of civil strife which has led to countless deaths and forced millions to flee and seek exile in other countries”.
“All of us want peace!” he exclaimed. “But as we observe this tragic conflict, seeing these wounds, seeing so many people who have left their homeland, forced to do so, I ask myself: who is selling arms to these people to make war? Behold the root of evil! Hatred and financial greed in the manufacturing and sale of arms. This should make us think about who is responsible for this situation, for providing arms to those in conflict and thereby sustaining such conflict. Let us think about this and with sincere hearts let us call upon these poor criminals to change their ways”.
Pope Francis thanked the Jordanian authorities and people for
“the generous welcome they have extended to the immense number of refugees from Syria and Iraq. I also thank all those who offer them assistance and solidarity. I think too of the charitable work undertaken by Church institutions such as Caritas Jordan and others, who assist the needy regardless of their religious beliefs, ethnic origin or politics; in this way they reveal the radiant face of Jesus, full of kindness and love. May the Almighty and Merciful God bless all of you and every effort you make to alleviate the sufferings caused by war”.
“I urge the international community not to leave Jordan, so welcoming and courageous, alone in the task of meeting the humanitarian emergency caused by the arrival of so great a number of refugees, but to continue and even increase its support and assistance. And I renew my heartfelt appeal for peace in Syria. May the violence cease and may humanitarian law be respected, thus ensuring much needed assistance to those who are suffering. May all parties abandon the attempt to resolve issues by the use of arms and return to negotiations. A solution will only be found through dialogue and restraint, through compassion for those who suffer, through the search for a political solution and through a sense of fraternal responsibility”.
Finally, he added,
“As our meeting concludes, I pray once more that reason and restraint will prevail and that, with the help of the international community, Syria will rediscover the path of peace. May God change the hearts of those who seek war. May God change the hearts of those who manufacture and sell arms, and may he strengthen the hearts and minds of peacemakers and grant them every blessing”.
In Bethlehem, he addressed to the Palestinian authorities. “For decades the Middle East has known the tragic consequences of a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal”, he began.
“Even in the absence of violence, the climate of instability and a lack of mutual understanding have produced insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation and the flight of entire communities, conflicts, shortages and sufferings of every sort. In expressing my closeness to those who suffer most from this conflict, I wish to state my heartfelt conviction that the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable. For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security. The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgement by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders”.
“To this end, I can only express my profound hope that all will refrain from initiatives and actions which contradict the stated desire to reach a true agreement, and that peace will be pursued with tireless determination and tenacity. Peace will bring countless benefits for the peoples of this region and for the world as a whole. And so it must resolutely be pursued, even if each side has to make certain sacrifices”, he emphasised. “I pray that the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and their respective leaders will undertake this promising journey of peace with the same courage and steadfastness needed for every journey. Peace in security and mutual trust will become the stable frame of reference for confronting and resolving every other problem, and thus provide an opportunity for a balanced development, one which can serve as a model for other crisis areas”.
In Israel during the welcome ceremony at the Ben Gurion Airport he made said among other things:
“In union with all men and women of good will, I implore those in positions of responsibility to leave no stone unturned in the search for equitable solutions to complex problems, so that Israelis and Palestinians may live in peace. The path of dialogue, reconciliation and peace must constantly be taken up anew, courageously and tirelessly. There is simply no other way.”
“And so I renew the appeal made in this place by Pope Benedict XVI: the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized. At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The “Two State Solution” must become reality and not remain merely a dream.”