by Vatican News –
VATICAN CITY (November. 16, 2003) Zenit.org — The Holy Land does not need “walls” but “bridges,” John Paul II said in reference to the barrier dividing the Palestinian Territories and Israel.
The Pope for the first time publicly expressed his disapproval of the Israeli government’s initiative to build a fortified line of security. He made his comment today when greeting the several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus.
The Holy Father condemned “any terrorist action carried out, in recent times, in the Holy Land.”
“At the same time,” he added, “I must point out that, unfortunately, in those places the dynamism of peace seems to have stopped. The construction of a wall between the Israeli and Palestinian people is seen by many as a new obstacle on the road toward peaceful coexistence.”
“In fact, the Holy Land does not need walls but bridges!” the Holy Father exclaimed in a voice that seemed clearer than in recent weeks. “Without the reconciliation of spirits, there can be no peace.”
“May the leaders have the courage to return to dialogue and negotiation, thus opening the way toward a Middle East that is reconciled in justice and peace,” the Pope said.
On Oct. 21, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling the sprawling network of fences and walls a “contradiction to international law” and ordering Israel to “stop and reverse” its construction on Palestinian lands.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government said that it would continue the construction of the barrier, which will eventually run 350 kilometers (215 miles), despite a U.S. threat to reduce $9 billion in loan guarantees to the Jewish state. Washington is concerned that the project prejudges borders that should be decided in negotiations.
Sharon is scheduled to meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday. There was no immediate word about a possible visit to the Vatican.