13-May-2009 -- Vatican Information Service |

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Holy Father Departs from the Palestinian Territories

VATICAN CITY, 13 MAY 2009 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. today at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, the Holy Father made a courtesy visit to Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority. He also met with a group of residents from Gaza and the West Bank.

Having described his time in the Palestinian Territories as "a most memorable day", the Pope thanked President Abbas for his hospitality and "for the great kindness you have shown me".

Referring then to the separation wall, the Pope said that "although walls can easily be built, we all know that they do not last forever. They can be taken down. First, though, it is necessary to remove the walls that we build around our hearts, the barriers that we set up against our neighbours.

"That is why", he added, "in my parting words, I want to make a renewed plea for openness and generosity of spirit, for an end to intolerance and exclusion. ... There are always grounds to hope that [conflict] can be resolved, that the patient and persevering efforts of those who work for peace and reconciliation will bear fruit in the end. My earnest wish for you, the people of Palestine, is that this will happen soon, and that you will at last be able to enjoy the peace, freedom and stability that have eluded you for so long".

Benedict XVI gave assurances that he will continue "to take every opportunity to urge those involved in peace negotiations to work towards a just solution that respects the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike. As an important step in this direction, the Holy See looks forward to establishing shortly, in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority, the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission that was envisioned in the Basic Agreement, signed in the Vatican on 15 February 2000".

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