The pontiff also called for respect between cultures and religions.

"The serious difficulties encountered by the Christian  community" in Israel and the Palestinian territories "because of lack of security, work, restrictions on movements and poverty are a source of anxiety for us", he said on Thursday.

The pope made his remarks at a meeting at the Vatican for assistance to the churches based mainly in the Middle East.

"This situation makes the educational, professional and family future uncertain for the young generations, who are strongly tempted to leave their native lands," he said.

"It is a situation which is repeated in other areas of the  Middle East (such as) Iraq and Iran.

"We must find new ways of meeting the needs of these people. I renew my appeal to priests and the faithful, to all those who have a responsibility, to encourage mutual respect between cultures and religions, in order to create in the Middle East the conditions for calm and peaceful coexistence."