Pope Benedict XVI left Israel for the Vatican in Rome on Friday afternoon, in the presence of a number of Israeli political and religious figures.
At the ceremony, he told Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv that “[o]ne of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was the wall.”
“As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression,” the pope added.
Before departing, the pope also expressed support for the two-state solution to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, saying, “[T]he Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream.”
“I wish to put on record that I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people,” the pope added. “Friends enjoy spending time in one another’s company, and they find it deeply distressing to see one another suffer. No friend of the Israelis and the Palestinians can fail to be saddened by the continuing tension between your two peoples. No friend can fail to weep at the suffering and loss of life that both peoples have endured over the last six decades.”
“Allow me to make this appeal to all the people of these lands: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing,” he said.
“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,” he said, before boarding his flight to Rome.