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Rome Reports

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Francis asks Israelis and Palestinians to be courageous in their journey towards peace

The Pope's day started with this hug from the President of Palestine, Mahmud Abbas.  Both men walked down the road hand in hand as they made their way to a meeting at the Presidential Palace of Bethlehem.  In his speech minutes later, Pope Francis said that the time had come for Israelis and Palestinians to act with generosity and creativity to ensure that both states may live in peace.  FRANCIS "The time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable. FLASH There is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justiceâ?.  Francis asked Israelis and Palestinians to begin a "journey of peace,â? a journey filled with sacrifices that will benefit everyone.   FRANCIS "I can only express my profound hope that all will refrain from initiatives and actions which contradict the stated desire to reach a true agreement. FLASH Peace will bring countless benefits for the peoples of this region and for the world as a whole. And so it must resolutely be pursued, even if each side has to make certain sacrifices.â? The Pope spoke about the Christian community and their "significant contribution to the common goodâ?. He also stressed that Christians were not second class citizens.  FRANCIS  "Christians desire to continue in this role as full citizens, along with their fellow citizens, whom they regard as their brothers and sisters.â?  After his speech, Francis made his way to Manger Square in the popemobile to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the Nativity. On the way to the basilica, Pope Francis stopped the car to spend some moments in prayer at the wall that separates Palestine and Israel.   JRB/LK CTV FA -BN Up: MAE #Papa