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Pope urges Israel to help Christians in Mideast

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 12, 2008 | 2:54 pm

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday asked Israel to ease travel restrictions for Mideast Christians, who in Gaza and the West Bank and places like Lebanon have been under attack.

Benedict has made concern over the future of Middle East Christians a
priority. Economic problems as well as violence in the Holy Land and Iraq have led Christians to emigrate from the region.

“I pray that, in consequence of the growing friendship between Israel and the Holy See, ways will be found of reassuring the Christian community that they
have a secure future in the region,” Benedict said.

He said problems facing Christians are related to Israel-Palestinian tensions.

The Holy See recognizes Israel’s legitimate need for security and self-defense and strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism, the pope said.

At the same time, he urged Israel to alleviate travel restrictions causing hardships for Palestinians.

The ambassador, in his remarks released by the Vatican, said Israel would do its utmost to help strengthen the Christian communities in Israel as their essential presence in the Holy Land is deeply rooted and historically self-understood.

This is a bit of a different tone from the Holy See than when the Vatican’s former ambassador to Israel said, “relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Israel were better when there were no diplomatic relations.”

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