Editorial | Pope Francis and a land so loved

The recent film "Jerusalem" that played at the St. Louis Science Center eloquently made the point that the city was a sacred place long before it had synagogues, churches and mosques.

The film followed three teenage girls, each a member of the three major world religions that share the Holy City, and the girls met at the end of the filming. Though they lived close to each other, they have had little contact with people from other religions. Yet, they were curious about each other and shared a love of Jerusalem.

Returning from his recent visit to the Holy Land, Pope Francis cited the status of Jerusalem, which Israel controversially has declared its "complete and united capital." The pope suggested part of the city might serve as capital for Palestinians under an eventual two-state solution, but that in any case, it should be a "city of peace" for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

En route to a Mass in Bethlehem, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at the controversial separation wall, built by Israel over Palestinian protests, between its territory and the West Bank. A Vatican spokesman later confirmed that the pope prayed as he stood against the wall.

The wall is an unmistakable sign of the tension, mistrust and injustice in the land where Jesus once walked.

Pope Francis later invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to pray together at the Vatican for peace between their nations.

"All of us, especially those placed at the service of their own peoples, have the duty to serve as instruments and constructors of peace, above all in prayer," the pope said after the Mass.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is increasingly unacceptable, the pope said. Lasting peace will require the "acknowledgement by all of the right of two states to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders," as Pope Francis succinctly stated the case, adding that both sides have to make sacrifices. Issues of religious freedom also are paramount.

The role of the United States in bringing peace should not be understated. In a May 20 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 33 religious leaders, including present and past heads of Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious organizations, wrote "the time for Israeli-Palestinian peace is now," and that "achieving peace needs your continued, determined engagement." Signers included Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.

"A two-state agreement in which both peoples will live in peace, security, and mutual recognition represents the only realistic resolution of the conflict," the letter stated. "Over time, developments on the ground and failures of leadership are making that goal more difficult to achieve."

Public support of members in synagogues, churches and mosques across the country are needed for these efforts for peace to become reality. We all have a role to play in the future of the land so loved by people of these world religions.

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