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Pope prays for Mideast peace in ruined Golan town

Pope John Paul II on Monday called for a "conversion of heart" among all parties in the Middle East.

He was praying in the remains of a Greek Orthodox church in the town of Quneitra, an hour's ride by car from Damascus and within sight of Israeli farms and military listening posts. The church was among dozens of buildings damaged during an Israeli occupation 30 years ago, the Holy Father steered clear of any overtly political statement, dashing hopes expressed by some Syrians that he would be inspired by the rubble around him to indict Israel.

His words, uttered before a simple wooden cross in a concrete shell bereft of other ornamentation, instead reflected a belief that all sides have work to do.

"From this place so disfigured by war, I wish to raise my heart and voice in prayer for peace in the Holy Land," said the pope, who blessed and watered an olive tree to be planted in the village. "We pray to you for the peoples of the Middle East. Help them break down the walls of hostility and division."

International Herald Tribune