Rome, 8 (NE) Pope John Paul II renewed today his call for peace in the Middle East, during the farewell ceremony held at Damascus international airport. Moments before his departure, the Pope thanked the people of Syria, who "during these days have made a pilgrim feel at home". Attending the ceremony was the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. "My pilgrim prayer is that Syria will move confidently and serenely into a new and promising future, and that your country will flourish in an era of well-being and tranquility for all its people", said the Pope in his brief farewell speech.

"Syria is a vital presence in the life of this whole region, whose peoples have long suffered the tragedy of war and conflict. But for the door of peace to open, fundamental issues of truth and justice, of rights and responsibilities must be resolved. The world looks to the Middle East with hope and concern, expectantly awaiting every sign of constructive dialogue". 
"I appeal once more to all the peoples involved, and to their political leaders, to recognize that confrontation has failed and will always fail. Only a just peace can bring the conditions needed for the economic, cultural and social development to which the peoples of the region have a right".