Pope John Paul II devoted part of his annual Easter message to call on the Palestinians and other ethnic groups to use dialogue, nor arms, in their quest for self-determination.
He also recalled the victims of the Holocaust, making a reference to the Auschwitz death camp within the context of mentioning this year’s 50th anniversary commemorations of the end of World War II.
“To those who await, in suffering, the recognition of their deepest aspirations, such as Palestinians, the Kurds or, among others, the native people of Latin America, the church proposes dialogue as the only path able to promote just and fair solutions,” the pope said in his “To the City and the World” message Easter Sunday.
The Vatican established relations with Israel 15 months ago. It has long supported a Palestinian homeland.
But the Vatican has strongly condemned terror attacks by Islamic fundamentalist groups that have resulted in the deaths of scores of israelis during the past year.
During his Good Friday re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross at Rome’s ancient Colosseum, the pope recited a prayer he wrote about “the victims of fratricidal wars: Bosnia, Chechnya, Rwanda, Burundi, the Middle East, Somalia.”
In the prayer he also spoke of “the tragic anniversaries” that are being commemorated this year: “of Auschwitz, horrid extermination camp; of Dresden, razed to the ground; of Hiroshima, city of appalling slaughter.”
The Stations of the Cross ceremony, which recalls the route Jesus took on the day of his crucifixion, was deliberately ecumenical in character, with two Protestant nuns and a Russian Orthodox priest also taking part.
One of the nuns, Minke de Vries of Holland, wrote a meditation for the service in which she urged the pope and his faithful to ask forgiveness from God for having “rejected the Jewish people” and “sneered at them even in the liturgy.”