|I appeal for greater
solidarity and political will
Your situation shows
urgent need for just solution to underlying causes of the
On Wednesday afternoon, 22 March, the Holy Father
visited the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, one of the many camps
administered by the UN Relief and Works Agency for the estimated
three to four million Palestinian refugees and displaced persons
in the Middle East. During his brief visit the Pope gave the
following address in English.
Here is the text.
1. It is important to me that my pilgrimage to the birthplace
of Jesus Christ, on this the two thousandth anniversary of that
extraordinary event includes this visit to Dheisheh. It is
deeply significant that here, close to Bethlehem, I am meeting
you, refugees and displaced persons, and representatives of the
organizations and agencies involved in a true mission of mercy.
Throughout my pontificate I have felt close to the Palestinian
people in their sufferings.
I greet each one of you, and I hope and pray that my visit
will bring some comfort in your difficult situation. Please God
it will help to draw attention to your continuing plight. You
have been deprived of many things which represent basic needs of
the human person: proper housing, health care, education and
work. Above all you bear the sad memory of what you were forced
to leave behind, not just material possessions, but your
freedom, the closeness of relatives, and the familial
surroundings and cultural traditions which nourished your
personal and family life. It is true that much is being done
here in Dheisheh and in other camps to respond to your needs,
especially through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
I am particularly pleased at the effectiveness of the presence
of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and many other
Catholic organizations. But there is still much to be done.
2. The degrading conditions in which refugees often have to
live; the continuation over long periods of situations that are
barely tolerable in emergencies or for a brief time of transit;
the fact that displaced persons are obliged to remain for years
in settlement camps: these are the measure of the urgent need
for a just solution to the underlying causes of the problem.
Only a resolute effort on the part of leaders in the Middle East
and in the international community as a whole—inspired by a
higher vision of politics as service of the common good—can
remove the causes of your present situation. My appeal is for
greater international solidarity and the political will to meet
this challenge. I plead with all who are sincerely working for
justice and peace not to lose heart. I appeal to political
leaders to implement agreements already arrived at, and to go
forward towards the peace for which all reasonable men and women
yearn, to the justice to which they have an inalienable right.
3. Dear young people, continue to strive through education to
take your rightful place in society, despite the difficulties
and handicaps that you have to face because of your refugee
status. The Catholic Church is particularly happy to serve the
noble cause of education through the extremely valuable work of
Bethlehem University, founded as a sequel to the visit of my
predecessor Pope Paul VI in 1964.
Dear refugees, do not think that your present condition makes
you any less important in God's eyes! Never forget your dignity
as his children! Here at Bethlehem the Divine Child was laid in
a manger in a stable; shepherds from the nearby fields were the
first to receive the heavenly message of peace and hope for the
world. God’s design was fulfilled in the midst of humility and
Dear aid workers and volunteers, believe in the task that you
are fulfilling! Genuine and practical solidarity with those in
need is not a favour conceded, it is a demand of our shared
humanity and a recognition of the dignity of every human being.
Let us all turn with confidence to the Lord, asking him to
inspire those in a position of responsibility to promote
justice, security and peace, without delay and in an eminently
The Church, through her social and charitable organizations,
will continue to be at your side and to plead your cause before