Pope Francis began the second day of his Holy Land pilgrimage in a meeting with Palestinian authorities, urging them to work for an end to conflict and violence in the region.
“For decades the Middle East has known the tragic consequences of a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal,” the Pope lamented to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and other authorities on May 25 in the presidential palace of Bethlehem.
“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 acknowledgment by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders,” he stressed.
The Pontiff also spoke forcefully in defense of Christians living in the Holy Land, who “desire to continue in this role as full citizens”
Calling upon the “good relations existing between the Holy See and the State of Palestine,” Pope Francis expressed his hope that “it is possible to find a means of serene, ordered and peaceful coexistence, accepting our differences and rejoicing that, as children of the one God, we are all brothers and sisters.”
Religious freedom is a “fundamental right,” he emphasized. It is “one of the essential conditions for peace, fraternity, and harmony.”
The Pope expressed his “closeness to those who suffer” in the “climate of instability” in the region.
He noted that a “lack of mutual understanding” has produced “insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation, and the flight of entire communities.”
Pope Francis then said, “I wish to state my heartfelt conviction that the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable.”
The Pontiff was firm in his emphasis that peace must be sought.
“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.”
He insisted that the conflicts in the region must end, “even if each side has to make certain sacrifices.”
Moreover, the Pope called for authenticity on the part of all, saying “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.”
Concluding his remarks with a quote from Scripture, the Holy Father prayed for God’s blessing upon everyone, for the “wisdom and strength needed to continue courageously along the path to peace, so that swords will be turned into ploughshares and this land will once more flourish in prosperity and concord.”