Pope Meets Abbas, Keeps Quiet on Cleansing of Christians
Pope meets Palestinian Authority chairman at Vatican, avoids public fuss over PA’s systematic anti-Christian violence.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 6/5/2011, 5:16 PM / Last Update: 6/5/2011, 5:19 PM
Pope Benedict XVI met the leader of the so Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, at the Vatican Friday and said there was an "urgent need" for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that included a PA state.
A statement issued by the Vatican after the talks did not mention the extremely violent way in which the PA has caused most of its Christian Arab population to flee.
Reports have offered extensive documentation that the PA encouraged a "sharp demographic shift" in Bethlehem, where the Christian population went from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to a 40 percent minority in 2000, to about 15 percent of the city's total population in 2008.
In its statement after the meeting, the Vatican said that the pope and Abbas had discussed the "irreplaceable contribution" provided by Christian minorities living in the PA territories and the Middle East.
The pope has spoken out on numerous occasions about the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands. Last year, he convened a meeting of bishops at the Vatican to discuss the ongoing crisis. Recently, he voiced his concern at the killing of Christian Copts in Egypt.
In the latest meeting with Abbas, "Particular stress was laid on the urgent need to find a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the Vatican stated. Such a solution would have to respect the rights of all parties including "the attainment of the Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations for an independent state," it added.
This is the fourth time the two have met since Benedict became pope.