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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI called for an “urgent international effort” to bring peace to the Middle East, especially for the region’s dwindling Christian population, in a Mass on Sunday (June 6) at the end of a three-day visit to Cyprus.
Quoting from a working paper prepared for a summit of Middle East bishops in Rome in October, he predicted the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the rise of “political Islam” would lead to greater violence.
Benedict called for an “urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed”.
The 46-page document details threats posed by fundamentalist Christians who use biblical texts “to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestine, making the position of Christian Arabs an even more sensitive issue.”
It also said the rise of “political Islam” in Arab, Turkish and Iranian societies and its extremist rhetoric are “clearly a threat to everyone, Christians and Muslims alike,” adding “the key to harmonious living between Christians and Muslims is to recognize religious freedom and human rights.”
On the first papal visit to Cyprus, Benedict met with a religious leaders from the Turkish-controlled north as well as those from the Greek Orthodox south in the divided island nation.
Benedict also paid tribute to the slain Catholic priest and activist Jerzy Popieluszko, who was beatified in Poland on Sunday. Popieluszko was 37 when murdered by the country’s communist secret police in 1984 after preaching peaceful resistance against the regime.
“His passionate service and his martyrdom are a special token of the victory of good over evil,” Benedict said in Polish.
Popieluszko’s beatification on Sunday in Warsaw puts him one step closer to sainthood. A second miracle, credited to his intercession, will be needed in order for him to be declared a saint.

— Richard Allen
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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