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 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 15:02 GMT
Pope calls for Middle East peace
The Pope on New Year's Day
The Pope delivered a forceful message
Pope John Paul II has used his New Year message to appeal for peace in the Middle East.

"The tragic and long-lasting tension in which this Middle Eastern region finds itself, makes more urgent the search for a positive solution to the fratricidal and senseless conflict that has been bloodying it for too long," he said.

Today, as in the past, despite serious and repeated attempts to upset the peace and harmony of peoples living together, peace is possible and necessary

The Pope
The 82-year-old Pope, looking frail but speaking clearly, also urged world leaders to find peaceful solutions to international problems, but did not mention Iraq by name.

Thousands of people gathered in St Peter's Basilica, Rome, to hear the Pope deliver a homily marking the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace.

He presided over mass rather than celebrating it, which would have meant more standing and moving around.

"How not to look at that holy place where Jesus was born with anxiety and sorrow? Bethlehem, the Holy Land," the Pope said.

"How not to express once more the wish that, on the part of those who are in charge, everything is made for peaceful solutions to the several tensions under way to be found, particularly in the Middle East, so as to prevent further suffering to those people who have already gone through so much? May human solidarity and law prevail.

"In the face of today's conflicts and the menacing tensions of the moment, yet again I invite prayer to pursue peaceful means for settlement.

International law

"Today, as in the past, despite serious and repeated attempts to upset the peace and harmony of peoples living together, peace is possible and necessary."

The Vatican's position on the Iraq crisis is that a solution must be found based on international law and using the United Nations.

The Pope later repeated his message during his weekly Angelus address before thousands of people packed into St Peter's Square.

Correspondents say the pontiff seemed in good shape despite his battle with arthritis and Parkinson's disease.

In a message released on 17 December in advance of the World Day of Peace, the Pope urged world leaders to defuse the situation in the Middle East and said they would be held accountable for their actions.


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25 Dec 02 | Europe
22 Apr 02 | Europe
26 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Dec 02 | Europe
24 Dec 02 | Middle East
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