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The BBC's George Arney
"The Pope left behind the controversies of the Middle East"
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The deputy PM of Malta, Lawrence Gonzi
"For the Maltese this visit captures basic values"
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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Pope on the road from Damascus
The Pope during his three-day visit to Syria
The Pope was warmly welcomed in Syria
Pope John Paul II has ended aground-breaking visit to Syria, where he called on the people of the Middle East to overcome their divisions.

From this place, so disfigured by war, I wish to raise my heart and voice in prayer for peace in the Holy Land

Pope John Paul II
Departing from Damascus, the Pope said serious obstacles remained on the path to peace in the Middle East and that the first step along that path must be an acceptance that peace was possible.

He also urged all parties to abide by international law in finding a solution.

Among the highlights in Syria were prayers for peace amid the ruins of the Syrian village of Quneitra - once the scene of heavy fighting between Israel and Syria for control of the Golan Heights.


The pontiff asked people in the Middle East to "tear down the walls of hostility and division".

He also offered special prayers for the latest victims of the Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip.

The Pope made history on Sunday by becoming the first Roman Catholic pontiff to set foot in a mosque, where he prayed for peace in the region.

Our correspondent says that at the end of his visit to Syria, the Pope can claim a considerable personal success in the warm welcome he received not only from the small Catholic community, but also from Christians of all the other various denominations present in the country.

The Pope spent 24 hours in Greece before arriving in Syria.

In Greece, he astonished his hosts with an apology for centuries of Roman Catholic wrongs against Orthodox Christians, and called for serious dialogue to bridge nearly 1,000 years of mistrust and hostility.

He left Syria for Malta, the first Catholic country of this three-nation tour, which he is making in the footsteps of St Paul.

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See also:

07 May 01 | Middle East
Mosque visit crowns Pope's tour
05 Jan 00 | Middle East
The Golan: Territory and security
06 May 01 | Middle East
Inside the Umayyad mosque
05 May 01 | Middle East
Syria plea for Pope support
05 May 01 | Europe
In pictures: Pope in Syria
29 Mar 01 | World
Pope reaches out to Islam
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Syria
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