Synod backs Pope in call for 'two-state' solution in Middle East

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In calling for a “two-state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East has echoed the solution that Pope Benedict XVI urged on his visit to Israel last year.

“We hope that the two-state solution might become a reality and not a dream only,” the bishops said in language very similar to that used by Benedict on his trip to the Holy Land in 2009

The nearly 200 bishops participating in the two-week synod presented their final communique in a private session on Oct. 22. In addition, they gave the Pope a set of 44 proposals to consider in drawing up his own reflections on the synod, which will eventually be issued in a document known as a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

The synod’s final message underscores the aspirations of Christians and the challenges they face in the region. And it calls on the local churches and individual Catholics to take concrete actions to ensure the future of Christianity in the Middle East.

Among the many challenges facing the Church are the ongoing, daily ramifications of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has hung like a cloud over the region since 1948 when Israel was declared a sovereign nation.

The synod fathers urged the international community to “work to find a peaceful, just and definitive solution in the region.” The bishops said the framework for peace must include the “application” of United Nations Security Council resolutions and “taking the necessary legal steps to put an end to the occupation of the different Arab territories."

The Security Council in the past has called for Israel to withdraw from territories secured during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and more recently has called for a so-called two-state solution that envisions Israelis and the Palestinians living side-by-side with secure and mutually recognized borders.

The synod also stressed the need for the Palestinians to have “an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security.” In addition, the synod fathers said that Israel must be able “to enjoy peace and security within their internationally recognized borders.”

Addressing the question of Jerusalem, the bishops said that it must be guaranteed “its proper status, which respects its particular character, its holiness and the religious patrimony of the three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim.”

The final synod communique echoes the positions outlined by Pope Benedict XVI during his farewell address on May 15, 2009 at Tel Aviv, Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. He urged leaders to "break the vicious circle of violence” and to begin the path of “genuine reconciliation and healing."

"Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders,” the Pope said. “Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely.”

The Pope added: "Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream," he implored. "And let peace spread outwards from these lands, let them serve as a 'light to the nations,' bringing hope to the many other regions that are affected by conflict."

Again at the synod's closing Mass on Oct. 24, he made an appeal for peace in all the Middle East.

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