Pope Benedict XVI ended his pilgrimage to the Holy Land on Friday with his strongest call yet for the creation of a Palestinian state and telling the faithful at the site of Jesus’ crucifixion that peace is possible.
“Let it be universally recognized that the state of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders,” the pope said on the tarmac of Tel Aviv’s airport before boarding the plane for Rome. “Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland.”
“Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream,” Benedict said, on the last day of his eight-day-long Holy Land pilgrimage.
Earlier on the final day of his visit, the pontiff walked into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Benedict knelt down and kissed the rectangular stone on which Jesus’ body is believed to have been placed after the crucifixion. Then he entered the structure inside the church marking the site of Jesus’ tomb and knelt inside alone for several minutes, hands clasped, as priests chanted nearby.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Rebels sealed off, military says
Sri Lanka’s military said it took control of the island’s entire coastline today and cut off any sea escape for Tamil Tiger leaders trapped in a tiny slice of remaining rebel territory.
The latest military success came after President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared that his soldiers would end the island’s bloody civil war in 48 hours, a deadline that ends today.
Two army divisions moving along the island’s northeastern coast linked up at the coastal village of Vellamullivaikkal to deny the rebels sea access for the first time in its quarter-century separatist insurgency, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
The rebels and tens of thousands of civilians are cornered in a tiny 1.2-square-mile strip between a lagoon and the sea.
From wire reports
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