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Pope regrets arrival of war in Bethlehem's Manger Square

Pope John Paul II, saying he was deeply saddened by the latest news from the Middle East, decried the shooting death of a youth in Bethlehem's Manger Square, a few metres from the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

"It is with deep sadness that I receive the sorrowful and worrisome news from Bethlehem, likewise from the cities of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour," the pope said during his noon prayer delivered inside St. Peter's Basilica. "War and death arrived even on the square of the Basilica of the Nativity of Our Lord."

A day earlier, the heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem appealed to the world to pressure Israel to withdraw troops from Bethlehem. Shortly after, a 19-year-old was shot dead as he stood in Manger Square, apparently killed by a stray machine gun bullet.

"In the name of God, I repeat yet again: violence is for everybody only a path of death and destruction which dishonors the holiness of God and the dignity of man," the pope said.

Referring to the relatives of victims, John Paul added: "They have the gift of living in the Holy Land for Jews, for Christians and for Muslims. It must be the commitment of everyone to finally make it the land of peace and brotherhood."

He began his comments on current events by saying: "Unfortunately, in the present hour, there is no shortage of dangerous situations, which keep entire humanity in anxiety."