BETHLEHEM, West Bank, May 13 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI, during a daylong visit to the West Bank, lent support for an independent Palestinian state beside Israel Wednesday.
Speaking in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Roman Catholic leader also supported Palestinians' call for less restrictive movement in Israeli-occupied territories and quick distribution of reconstruction aid to Gaza, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"The Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally recognized borders," Benedict said.
The pope urged Palestinians to resist using terrorism as a response to Israel's operation in Gaza during the winter, recommending instead to "let what you have experienced renew your determination to build peace."
"Even if at present that goal seems far from being realized, I urge you and all your people to keep alive the flame of hope ... that a way can be found of meeting the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for peace and stability," the pope said with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his side.
Before Pope Benedict's remarks, Abbas criticized Israel's policies, the Times said.
"All types of oppression, tyranny and land expropriation are being exercised against all Arab citizens" in Palestinian territories, he said. "It is high time for this suffering to end."
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