Pope John Paul II warned Monday that only "dialogue and agreement, not force and imposition" will bring progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the delicate question of Jerusalem.
"What is at stake is not just the preservation of and free access to the holy places of the three religions, but also the free exercise of the religious and civil rights pertaining to the members, places and activities of the various communities," said the pope as he received the letter of accreditation from Israeli ambassador Yosef Neville Lamdan.
Renewing his call for a special, internationally guaranteed statute for the unique religious character of Jerusalem, the pope said international support would be aimed at conserving the cultural and religious patrimony of the city.
"In fact, the Holy Places are not mere memorials of the past, but are and must continue to be the nerve-center of vibrant, living and developing communities of believers, free in the exercise of their rights and duties, and living in harmony with one another."
Jerusalem must "truly be a City of Peace for all peoples," he continued.
"What is important is that the way forward be the path of dialogue and agreement, not force and imposition," he said, referring to the city, which lies at the center of a sovereignty dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.
The eastern sector of Jerusalem which houses holy sites of Christians, Jews and Moslems was conquered by Israel in 1967 and annexed as part of the Jewish state's capital.
The Palestinians and Israel are refusing shared sovereignty of east Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want to establish the capital of their future state.
John Paul II visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in March, 36 years after his predecessor Paul VI, who at the time snubbed the Jewish state's political and religious leadership.
He said the Holy Land "will always occupy a central place in the minds and hearts of Jews, Christians and Muslims."
"The spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is so great and so vital to the religious and moral health of the human family that every effort must be made to advance and expand our dialogue, especially on biblical, theological and ethical matters," he said.
Respect and esteem of each other's beliefs and traditions were the "surest way to overcome the prejudices of the past and to raise a barrier against the forms of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia which are re-appearing in some places today," he continued.
John Paul II said he regretted that "the elusive character of a definitive peace in the Middle East" was a continuing source of sadness but added that "the continuation of dialogue and negotiation is itself a significant development."
Israel's new envoy to the Holy See was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1938.
He served in the British diplomatic service between 1965 and 1971, and joined Israel's in 1973 -- VATICAN CITY (AFP)
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