Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday told Palestinians that he backs their demand for an independent state. He spoke in Bethlehem.
Standing alongside Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas, he acknowledged Palestinians' aspirations for security and self-rule. "Mr. President, 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," the pontiff said, according to the AP.
Benedict acknowledged the difficulties facing the Palestinians. "I know how much you have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades," he said.
On his part, Abbas slammed the West Bank wall and the occupation in his greeting to the pontiff. "In this Holy Land, the occupation still continues building separation walls," Abbas said. "Instead of building the bridge that can link us, they are using the force of occupation to force Muslims and Christians to emigrate."