Pope holds mass in Nazareth

Speaking in Israel's largest Arab city, Benedict urges rejection of hatred and prejudice.

    Tens of thousands gathered to listen to the pope as he held a mass in Nazareth on Thursday [AFP]

    Plans to build a mosque just below Nazareth's Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation in 1999 stirred anger among the Christian community, which makes up 30 per cent of the city's 66,000 population.

    An estimated 130,000 of Israel's 7.4 million residents are Christian, while in the Palestinian territories the ratio is 50,000 of a total population of 3.8 million.

    Open-air mass

    Benedict held mass in an open amphitheatre on Mount Precipice, revered by Christians as the place where Jesus vanished as a crowd angered by his teachings tried to throw him off a cliff.

    In depth

    Reporter's diary: Barbara Serra travels with the pope

    Video: Pope visits refugee camp in Bethlehem

    Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from the scene, said about 50,000 people had gathered to listen to the pontiff.

    "There's a real sense of excitement and pride here as the ground mass gets under way.

    "This is the largest Arab city in Israel so it's a great source of pride that the biggest mass of the papal pilgrimage is taking place here.

    "We should also remember those Palestinians in the the West Bank and Gaza that haven't been allowed to leave the occupied territories because the Israeli authorities have not given out enough permits for them to attend this mass.

    "For them, the mass might as well be taking place millions of miles away."

    Netanyahu meeting

    After the mass, Benedict met Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli right-wing prime minister, for talks at a church in Nazareth.

    Officials did not immediately release details of the closed-door meeting.

    Benedict has already held talks with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Bethlehem on Wednesday, where he called for a sovereign Palestinian homeland, lamented Israel's "tragic" separation wall and appealed for an end to the Gaza blockade.

    Our correspondent said there had not been much Israeli reaction to his speech, neither from the foreign ministry nor the Israeli papers.

    "The main Israeli paper this morning totally ignored those comments made by the pontiff," she said.

    "We did speak to someone in the foreign ministry who said there was no official statement but they felt the Holy See was very much balanced in its speech.

    "[The pope] talked about the need to take down the separation wall but the Holy See also reiterated the idea of the Palestinians having to resist the temptation of violence."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.