Septembet 1, 1997

VATICAN (CWN) -- Referring to Algeria as a "martyred" land after hearing the news of a new massacre there, Pope John Paul II on Sunday called upon the leaders of all the nations of the country to work together toward "justice, security, and peace." He spoke with emotion about the "unforgettable violence which has taken so many innocent lives," and condemned the "unjustifiable" killings as evidence of "ferocious barbarity."

The Pope also asked all of the leaders of the Middle East to "avoid provocations and attitudes which wound human dignity, and the legitimate rights and aspirations of all people."

The Pope made it clear that his concern for peace includes a special anxiety about the situation in the Holy Land. He called attention to the "very grave situation" that has developed in Bethlehem because of the month-long Israeli blockade there. The papal nuncio in Jerusalem, Bishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, lodged a formal protest with Israeli officials because pilgrims had been denied access to Bethlehem, in flagrant disregard of a Vatican-Israeli accord which guarantees access to the holy sites. But while that protest was withdrawn when the blockade was lifted, Pope John Paul insisted that the situation was not resolved. There remain "enormous difficulties" for the people of Bethlehem, he said; indeed all of the Palestinian people confront serious problems every day.