Pope Benedict has described the Israeli barrier dividing Bethlehem from Jerusalem as a tragic symbol of deadlock in the struggle for peace in the Middle East.
He was speaking to Palestinians in the shadow of the wall Israel says is necessary to protect it from attacks by militants. It was the latest stop in his tour of holy sites in the Middle East. He arrived in the West Bank from Israel and was given an enthusiastic reception from Palestinains. The Pontiff reiterrated his support for the eventual creation of a Palestinian State. “The Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian home in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbours within international recognised borders,” he said. Earlier, celebrating Mass next to the church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born in a stable, he won applause from worshippers when he said his heart went out to the pilgrims from war-torn Gaza.