Pope John Paul II has made an impassioned plea for a Palestinian homeland, at the start of his visit to Bethlehem.
   "No one can ignore how much the Palestinian people have had to suffer in recent decades. Your torment is before the eyes of the world. And it has gone on too long," the Pope said in a speech at a welcoming ceremony attended by the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
   The Pope flew into Bethlehem by helicopter on on Wednesday morning. On his arrival, the pontiff was presented with a bowl of earth, which he kissed.
   The Pope, said the Vatican had always recognised that the Palestinian people "have the natural right to a homeland, and the right to be able to live in peace and tranquillity with the other peoples of this area".
   "In the international forum, my predecessors and I have repeatedly proclaimed that there would be no end to the sad conflict in the Holy Land without stable guarantees for the rights of all the peoples involved, on the basis of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions and declarations," the Pontiff said.
   The Pope called for courage, compromise and "compliance with the demands of justice" from all the parties involved.


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