Jerusalem / PNN – Pope Benedict XVI arrived for the first part of his visit to historic Palestine with the Israelis. He called for a just solution and a Palestinian homeland, not using the word ‘state.’
The Vatican is in favor of a Palestinian state but due to the outright rejection by the new Israeli government some reports indicate that the Pope was attempting to “prepare” the Palestinians for the reality, despite pressure on the Israelis from Washington and the rest of the Quartet.
The Pope delivered a short speech upon arriving earlier today at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. “I call upon all available officials to be part of the quest for a just settlement…so that the two peoples can live in peace in their own homelands within secure and internationally recognized borders.”
Netanyahu, who was preparing to travel to Egypt for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, along with Israeli President Shimon Peres, said, “We have to have peace with Egypt and Jordan in order to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. We also have a comprehensive regional peace in the near future.”
Pope Benedict XVI said on his arrival in Tel Aviv on Monday that he came to pray for peace here and throughout the world. He said he was one “in a long line of Christians who has come to these beaches.”
“Like many others,” the Pope said today, “I have come to pray at the holy places, pray especially for peace, peace here in the holy land and peace throughout the world.”
He called for free access to Jerusalem for the followers of all religions that have sacred places in the city, a clear reference to the Israeli policy of closure and prevention of Palestinian Muslims and Christians from reaching their places of worship.
The Pope also talked about the holocaust and said he would address “anti-Semitism” around the world after receiving criticism for reinstating a bishop who denied six million Jews having died at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
Today the Pope is also visiting the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial. He will not visit the Gaza Strip nor will his program in Aida Refugee Camp be held in the space carved out to buffer the Wall.
A convoy of some 40 security vehicles is circling Bethlehem in preparation for his visit. Palestinian Authority security arrested earlier 10 members of Hizb ut-Tahrir for distributing leaflets denouncing the papal visit to Palestine which Bishop Asal says is bringing intensified unity to Palestinian Christians and Muslims.