After a courtesy visit to the President of the Palestinian Authority
on Wednesday 13 May 2009, the Holy Father gave the following address.
I thank you for the great kindness you have shown me throughout this
day that I have spent in your company, here in the Palestinian
Territories. I am grateful to the President, Mr Mahmoud Abbas, for his
hospitality and his gracious words. It was deeply moving for me to
listen also to the testimonies of the residents who have spoken to us
about the conditions of life here on the West Bank and in Gaza. I assure
all of you that I hold you in my heart and I long to see peace and
reconciliation throughout these tormented lands.
It has truly been a most memorable day. Since arriving in Bethlehem
this morning, I have had the joy of celebrating Mass together with a
great multitude of the faithful in the place where Jesus Christ, light
of the nations and hope of the world, was born. I have seen the care
taken of today’s infants in the Caritas Baby Hospital. With anguish, I
have witnessed the situation of refugees who, like the Holy Family, have
had to flee their homes. And I have seen, adjoining the camp and
overshadowing much of Bethlehem, the wall that intrudes into your
territories, separating neighbors and dividing families.
Although walls can easily be built, we all know that they do not last
for ever. 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 neighbors. That is why, in my parting words, I want
to make a renewed plea for openness and generosity of spirit, for an end
to intolerance and exclusion. No matter how intractable and deeply
entrenched a conflict may appear to be, there are always grounds to hope
that it 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.
Be assured that I 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 (cf. Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestine
Liberation Organization, art. 9).
Mr President, dear friends, I thank you once again and I commend all
of you to the protection of the Almighty. May God look down in love upon
each one of you, upon your families and all who are dear to you. And may
he bless the Palestinian people with peace.
[Original text: English]