On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Rome, the Pope said on Sunday the Middle East “does not need walls but bridges”.
“The construction of the wall between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is seen by many as a new obstacle on the road leading to peaceful cohabitation,” he said.
Israel is constructing an apartheid wall slicing off some of the most fertile areas of the West Bank, separating Palestinian farmers from their lands and scores of villages.
Israel says the wall is aimed at keeping out potential Palestinian resistance fighters. But Palestinians and some human rights groups fear that the concrete barrier demarcates the borders of a future state.
The Pope has been a firm defender of Palestinian rights. He became the first pope in history in 1986 to enter a synagogue and ask forgiveness for the sins committed by Christians against the Jews.
There was no indication that Sharon, the principal architect of the barrier, who arrives on Monday for a three-day visit to Italy, would also call on the Pope.
The Pope has consistently championed for both sides to live in peace.
“Without reconciliation between people, there cannot be peace,” he added in a firm voice.