In his traditional Christmas message, Pope Francis has urged a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as tensions prevail over the US’ decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Addressing tens of thousands of Roman Catholics on Christmas Day at the Vatican on Monday, the Argentine pontiff said children in the Middle East “continue to suffer” because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders,” said the 81-year-old.
He delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) message and blessings from the central balcony of the Vatican basilica.
Besides the Israeli-Palestine issue, Francis also hoped for peace in war-torn Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
“The winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline,” he said.
The pontiff also offered a prayer to end nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Each year, millions of Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25, to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.
The pope’s address comes as protests continue in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian territories, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The status of Jerusalem has long remained a sensitive topic and one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Currently, there are no embassies in Jerusalem.
Home to holy religious sites, the city has particular significance for Muslims, Christians and Jews.
After occupying the city’s eastern part in the 1967 War, Israel annexed the territory. In 1980, it proclaimed Jerusalem as its “eternal, undivided capital”.
Palestinian leaders hope that East Jerusalem might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Israel sees the entire city as its capital.
Diplomats and experts have long vouched for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On Saturday, Palestinian Christian leaders rejected the US decision, calling it “dangerous” and “insulting” in a statement.
At his Christmas Eve mass on Sunday, Francis defended refugees, strongly urging the world not to ignore the plight of people who are “driven from their land” because of leaders willing to shed “innocent blood”.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on Sunday led a solemn ceremony for about 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, while many others followed the service from the square outside.