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Pope Paul warned that “the continuation of the state of tension in the Middle East, without conclusive steps towards peace having been taken, constitutes a serious and constant danger. This danger imperils not only the peace and security of the people there — and the peace of the whole world — but also threatens certain values which for various reasons are supremely dear to such a great part of mankind.”

New directions
In a letter to Msgr. John G. Nolan, national secretary of CNEWA and president of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the mission, Paul VI cited its work as “one of the clearest signs of the Holy See’s concern for the welfare of the Palestinians, who are particularly dear to us because they are the people of the Holy Land, because they include followers of Christ and because they have been and still are being so tragically tried.” He expressed again “our heartfelt sharing in their sufferings and our support for their legitimate aspirations.”

Pope Paul gave new impetus and new dimensions to the work of the mission. “Our Mission for Palestine is thus about to be faced with a compelling task. In addition to continuing its assistance, without distinction of nationality or religion, to those who have suffered or are suffering in any way as a result of repeated conflicts which have devastated that region, the Mission will now have to expect, in the situation which is now evolving, to contribute to projects of aid, of rehabilitation and of development for the population of Palestine.” He again called for promotion in the Catholic world of “an effective collaboration between all the relief organizations concerned with Palestine.”

Pope John Paul II acknowledged the continuing efforts of the mission in an address on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1999. “In the past 50 years,” the pope said, “the Middle East has not ceased to experience moments of great tension and conflict, often exploding in acts of violence and outright war. In these circumstances, the Pontifical Mission has increased its efforts aimed at helping the local populations to rebuild their lives.

“In this way,” the Holy Father continued, “the Pontifical Mission is an eloquent expression of that ‘new culture of international solidarity and cooperation’ (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 12) which is so necessary in the modern world, and which must be a hallmark of the new millennium.

“I pray that you and all those associated with the work of the Mission will be renewed in faith and love as you seek ever better ways of helping those in need not only of material support but especially of opportunities for personal and social development,” the Pope concluded. “This is the surest path for establishing a true and lasting peace in the lives of the peoples of the Middle East.”

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