WASHINGTON (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI urged Israel to allow the Palestinians to establish a state.
"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," the pope said Friday at Ben Gurion Airport as he ended his first Holy Land visit. "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. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream."
Benedict said the separation barrier running through the West Bank was "one of the saddest sights for me" during his tour. The pope also referred to his tour of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, and his meeting with Holocaust survivors.
"That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied," he said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres called on the pope to use his leadership to repudiate terrorism carried out by religious fanatics. "Nowadays vile fanatics are emerging and are attempting to impose an alternative interpretation of the will of God," Peres said. "We believe that God yearns for life and respects life; Their distorted image of God is that He permits and even encourages murder, terror and violence."