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Pope calls for two states at end of Mideast tour.

Summary: Pope Benedict XVI on Friday called for a two-state solution to end the Middle East conflict and slammed the Holocaust as a "brutal extermination" as he concluded his Holy Land

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday called for a two-state solution to end the Middle East conflict and slammed the Holocaust as a "brutal extermination" as he concluded his Holy Land pilgrimage.

"Let the two-state solution become a reality," he said at a departure ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv. No more bloodshed

"No more bloodshed. No more fighting. No more terrorism. No more war," the pontiff said at the conclusion of his eight-day pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and the occupied West Bank.

"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.

"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 Vicar of Christ also spoke out forcefully against the Holocaust saying the world should never forget that "so many Jews.... were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred."

Following his visit to Israel's Yad Vashem Memorial on Monday, the German pope had faced criticism that he failed to apologize for the murder of six million Jews, did not use the word German or Nazi and showed little emotion.

But Israeli President Shimon Peres told the pope at the airport that his statements on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism "touched our hearts and minds."

Prayer

In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the pontiff knelt in silent prayer in a tiny cavelike room revered as the tomb of Jesus and later at the spot where most Christians believe their "Prince of Peace" was crucified.

He also preached a message of hope for all mankind, telling his audience at the church that "love is stronger than death."

"The empty tomb speaks to us of hope, the hope that does not disappoint because it is the gift of the spirit of life," he said after praying at the Stone of Anointing where Christians believe the body of Jesus Christ was prepared for burial.

It was Benedict's first visit as pope to the place where Christ was crucified, died, was buried and then rose from the dead, according to the Christian faith.

Another call for peace

Ending an eight-day tour of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the 82-year-old pope repeated his call for peace to come to the land revered by the world's three monotheistic faiths that has been wracked by decades of violence.

"The bitter fruits of recrimination and hostility can be overcome and...a future of justice, peace, prosperity and cooperation can arise," he said.

His visit to the 11th century church in the Old City of Jerusalem came on the same day that Palestinians marked the 61st anniversary of what they call the Naqba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948.

During his pilgrimage, the pope prayed at some of Christianity's most sacred destinations, visited Muslim and Jewish holy sites at the heart of the Middle East conflict, stood in silence at Israel's Holocaust memorial and saw the conditions in which Palestinians refugees live.

The leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics took his message of peace and reconciliation to religious leaders of various denominations, to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

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Publication:Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:May 14, 2009
Words:587
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