Pope opens MidEast summit

POPE Benedict yesterday opened a crisis summit of Middle East bishops to discuss the future of Christians in the region and insisted they have a right to live in their homelands.

War and violence in Iraq and the Holy Land have provoked an exodus of thousands of Christians. Harsh economic conditions have also prompted many faithful to leave.

“Living with dignity in one’s homeland is a fundamental human right,” and “conditions of peace and justice are indispensable for a harmonious development of all the region’s inhabitants,” Benedict said, expressing hope that faithful can “can experience the joy of living in the Holy Land”.

Later, addressing pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square, the Pope lamented that the Middle East is “marked by deep divisions and torn by age-old conflicts”. Yet the Catholic Church must be a “sign and instrument of unity and reconciliation,” he said.

When he greeted the bishops, the Pope stressed that the meeting’s aim was mainly pastoral, although it cannot ignore “the delicate, and at times dramatic social and political situation of several countries”.

The gathering should also foster dialogue with Jews and Muslims, said the Pope.


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