Pope appeals against Mid-East bloodshed on Cyprus trip

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Pope at Mass in Cyprus. 6 June 2010
Image caption,
The Mass was attended by pilgrims from Middle Eastern countries

Pope Benedict XVI has called for an urgent international effort to resolve tensions in the Middle East, at the end of a three-day trip to Cyprus.

The Pope used the trip to draw attention to the plight of Christians in the region, whom he said were being both persecuted and ignored.

He ended the visit with a Mass attended by Middle Eastern pilgrims.

A lethal Israeli raid on a ship trying to break the Gaza blockade has focussed attention on the Middle East conflict.

"I reiterate my personal appeal for an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed," the Pope said at Mass on Sunday.

'First to suffer'

After the Mass, the pontiff distributed a working paper ahead of a synod for Middle Eastern bishops in Rome in October.

"The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is creating difficulties in everyday life, inhibiting freedom of movement, the economy and religious life," the document said.

"Certain Christian fundamentalist theologies used sacred scripture to justify Israel's occupation of Palestine, making the position of Christian Arabs an even more sensitive issue," it added.

The paper cited the Israeli-Palestian conflict and the social and political situations in Iraq and Lebanon as reasons for the emigration of Christians from the Middle East.

"International politics oftentimes pays no attention to the existence of Christians and the fact that they are victims, at times the first to suffer, goes unnoticed," it said.

The day before the Pope arrived in Turkey a Catholic bishop, Luigi Padovese, was murdered in Turkey. Benedict spoke of his "profound sadness" at the killing.

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