Pope, in Bethlehem, urges intensified Mideast peace efforts

by Reuters
Sunday, 25 May 2014 07:27 GMT

BETHLEHEM, West Bank, May 25 (Reuters) - Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for peace on a pilgrimage on Sunday to Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, urging an intensified effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With U.S.-brokered peace talks now frozen, the Pope said he hoped "all will refrain from initiatives and actions which contradict the stated desire to reach a true agreement" for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"For the good of all, 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," Francis said in the Biblical city, now a part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Pope, hailing good relations between the Holy See and "the State of Palestine", said the time had come "for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative" in ending "a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal". (Writing by Jeffrey Heller)