Pope Francis again slams Israel – walls, occupation and fundamentalism hamper Middle East peace


Francis renews his appeal for a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, denounces “occupation” of Middle East lands and weapons trade that fuels region’s wars • Global powers must stop their “thirst for profit … with no scruples,” he says.

Pope Francis on Saturday denounced the “murderous indifference” that has allowed violence to consume the Middle East and drive tens of thousands of Christians from their homes, calling out global powers for seeking power and profit at the expense of the region’s people during a remarkable gathering of Orthodox patriarchs and Catholic leaders.

Francis hosted the day-long ecumenical service in the Adriatic port city of Bari, considered a religious bridge between East and West and home to the relics of St. Nicholas, an important saint in the Orthodox Christian world.

Francis greeted the patriarchs outside the Basilica of St. Nicholas and together they descended to the crypt to pray before the relics and light a flame for peace symbolizing the unity of Christians divided by over 1,000 years of schism.

“We commit ourselves to walking, praying and working together, in the hope that the art of encounter will prevail over strategies of conflict,” Francis said at the end of the encounter as children released doves of peace.

For years, the Vatican has voiced concern about the plight of Christians driven from Middle Eastern communities that date to the time of Christ. Just last week, Francis decried intensified attacks in southern Syria that killed scores of people and forced tens of thousands to flee.

The Vatican has also long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character for Jews, Muslims and Christians, and has responded to the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by urging respect for the status quo of the holy city.

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