Pope John Paul II

Dialogika Resources

Prayer for the Middle East

Otranto, Italy

At the same time, we cannot close our eyes to particularly delicate situations that have developed there and still exist. Harsh conflicts have broken out; the Middle East is pervaded by tensions and strife, with the ever-incumbent risk of the outbreak of new wars. It is painful to note that conflicts have often taken place following the lines of division between different confessional groups, so that it has been possible for some people, unfortunately, to feed them artificially by appealing to the religious sentiment.

The terms of the Middle East drama are well known: The Jewish people, after tragic experiences connected with the extermination of so many sons and daughters, driven by the desire for security, set up the State of Israel. At the same time the painful condition of the Palestinian people was created, a large part of whom are excluded from their land. These are facts that are before everyone's eyes. And other countries, such as Lebanon, are suffering as a result of a crisis which threatens to be a chronic one. In these days, finally, a bitter conflict is in progress m the neighboring region, between Iraq and Iran.

Gathered here today, at the tombs of the Martyrs of Otranto, let us meditate on the words of the liturgy, which proclaims their glory and their power in the Kingdom of God: "They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever." Therefore m union with these martyrs, we present to the One God, to the Living God, to the Father of all men, the problems of peace in the Middle East and also the problem, which is so dear to us, of the rapport and real dialogue with those with whom we are united—in spite of the differences—by faith in one God, the faith inherited from Abraham. May the spirit of unity, mutual respect, and understanding prove to be more powerful than what divides and sets in opposition.

Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia nourished for millennia the roots of traditions sacred for each of the three religious groups. There again, for centuries, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic communities lived together on the same territories; in those regions, the Catholic Church boasts communities outstanding for their ancient history, vitality, variety of rites, and their own spiritual characteristics.

Towering high over all this world, like an ideal center, a precious jewel-case that keeps the treasures of the most venerable memories, and is itself the first of these treasures, is the Holy City, Jerusalem, today the object of a dispute that seems without a solution, tomorrow—if people only want it!—tomorrow a crossroads of reconciliation and peace.

Yes, we pray that Jerusalem, instead of being, as it is today, the object of strife and division, may become the meeting point towards which the eyes of Christians, Jews, and Moslems will continue to turn, as to their own common hearth; round which they will feel as brothers, no one superior, no one in the debt of others; towards which pilgrims, followers of Christ, or faithful of Mosaic Law, or members of the community of Islam, will continue to direct their steps.