Elderly Pope makes desperate attempts to reconcile all

Pope John Paul II has visited a ruined town in the Golan Heights on the latest stage of his politically sensitive visit to Syria. The pontiff led prayers at an abandoned church in the Syrian-held ghost town of Quneitra calling upon the peoples of the Middle East to "tear down the walls of hostility and division". He also offered special prayers for the latest victims of the Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip. Syrian officials were eager to show the Pope the town, 65km (40 miles) south of Damascus, which was destroyed by the Israelis before being handed back to Syria in 1974. Syria has deliberately left Quneitra in ruins as a memorial to what it calls Israel's barbaric behaviour. According to BBC, thousands of former Quneitra residents were bussed in for the Pope's visit, during which he also planted an olive tree as a symbol of peace. The Pope made history on Sunday by becoming the first Roman Catholic pontiff to set foot in a mosque, where he prayed for peace in the Middle East. In an address at the Umayyad mosque, he said Muslims and Christians should "offer each other forgiveness" for all the times they "have offended one another". The pontiff has reportedly been greeted with enthusiasm and affection in Syria, which has a tradition of religious tolerance. By the way, when on a visit to Greece earlier this year, the pope formally apoligized to the Greek Orthodox Church for the offences the Roman Catholic Church had caused it.

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