Pope prays for a two-state solution


‘We see Jesus in the children who suffer because of Israel-Palestine tensions,’ he says in his address

Pope Francis used his Christmas message on Monday to call for a negotiated two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after U.S. President Donald Trump stoked regional tensions with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Pope spoke of the conflict in West Asia and other world flashpoints in his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) address, four days after more than 120 countries backed a UN resolution urging the U.S. to reverse its decision on Jerusalem.

“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders,” he said, referring to the Israelis and Palestinians.

“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said in his address, delivered from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to tens of thousands of people.

Mention of Jerusalem

It was the second time that the Pope has spoken out publicly about Jerusalem since Mr. Trump’s decision on December 6.

On that day, Pope Francis called for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, lest new tensions in the region further inflame world conflicts.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israel has declared the whole city to be its “united and eternal” capital.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.

Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, urged people to see the defenceless baby Jesus in the children who suffer the most from war, migration and natural calamities caused by man today.

“Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world … Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the child and to recognise him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, ‘there is no place in the inn’,” he said.

Pope Francis, celebrating the fifth Christmas of his pontificate, said he had seen Jesus in the children he met during his recent trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, and he called for adequate protection of the dignity of minority groups in that region.

“Jesus knows well the pain of not being welcomed and how hard it is not to have a place to lay ones head. May our hearts not be closed as they were in the homes of Bethlehem,” he said.

He also urged the world to see Jesus in the innocent children suffering from wars in Syria and Iraq and also in Yemen, complaining that its people had been “largely forgotten, with serious humanitarian implications for its people, who suffer from hunger and the spread of diseases”.

He also listed conflicts affecting children in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Ukraine and Venezuela.

At his Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, Pope Francis strongly defended immigrants, comparing them to Mary and Joseph finding no place to stay in Bethlehem and saying faith demands that foreigners be welcomed.

Muted celebrations

Earlier, celebrating midnight mass in the ancient town of Bethlehem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, used his homily to lambast the wars that “the Herods of today fight every day to become greater, to occupy more space”.

Criticising Mr. Trump’s announcement, Patriarch Pizzaballa insisted “Jerusalem is a city of peace, there is no peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude,” stressing the principle that Jerusalem is a city for both peoples and the three Abrahamic faiths.

Hundreds had gathered in the cold on Bethlehem’s Manger Square to watch the annual scout parade towards the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where tradition says Mary gave birth to Jesus.

But the square was noticeably quieter following the violence between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli Army in the past weeks.

Twelve Palestinians have been killed since Mr. Trump’s declaration, including a 19-year-old who died of his wounds on Sunday nine days after he was shot during a Gaza protest.

Christmas in Syria, Iraq

Christmas decorations have meanwhile become more visible in Christian areas of Syria’s capital Damascus this year.

In the central Syrian city of Homs, Christians were celebrating Christmas with great fanfare for the first time in years after the end of battles between regime and rebel forces — with processions, shows for children and even decorations among the ruins. In Iraq too, this year marked a positive turning point for the Christian community in the northern city of Mosul.

Meanwhile a tragic Christmas weekend in the Philippines was compounded on Monday by the deaths of 20 people killed in a bus collision while travelling to mass.

Source: The Hindu


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