July 7, 2018 / 11:28 AM / 14 days ago

Pope says walls, occupation, fundamentalism block Mideast peace

BARI, Italy (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Saturday that building walls, occupying territories and religious fanaticism would never bring peace to the Middle East.

Pope Francis delivers a speech after a meeting with Patriarchs of the churches of the Middle East at the St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari, southern Italy July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Speaking at the end of a summit of Christian religious leaders, Francis also repeated his view that the “status quo” of the contested city of Jerusalem should be respected, and backed a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Truces maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace, but only the concrete desire to listen and to engage in dialogue will,” he said.

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“Let there be an end to the few profiting from the

sufferings of many. No more occupying territories and thus tearing people apart,” he said.

Francis said many conflicts had been stoked by “forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism that, under the guise of religion, have profaned God’s name – which is peace – and persecuted age-old neighbors”.

He said every community in the Middle East should be protected, “not simply the majority,” and took a swipe at weapons procurement, saying “You cannot speak of peace while you are secretly racing to stockpile new arms”.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet

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