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Pope's Plea For Peace During Bethlehem Visit
Pope Francis has made a plea for peace between Israel and the Palestinians during a visit to Bethlehem on the second leg of this three-day Middle East tour.
The Pontiff held a mass in the West Bank city and called for renewed peace negotiations, saying the prolonged conflict had become unacceptable.
Francis delighted his hosts by referring to the "state of Palestine," and said the time had come for "everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative" to end the conflict.
"For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice," he said.
Francis made an unscheduled stop at the concrete wall erected 10 years ago by Israel, which separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
The Pope spent several minutes praying in the shadow of an Israeli watchtower.
Francis travelled to Bethlehem by helicopter, becoming the first Pontiff to travel directly to the West Bank instead of entering via Israel.
After six hours in the city, he was due to travel to Israel for a series of meetings before returning to the Vatican on Monday.
Israeli police say they have arrested 26 people who took part in a protest early on Sunday by Jewish nationalists at the Cenacle in Jerusalem, the traditional site of Jesus's Last Supper.
Francis is due to hold a mass at the site on Monday.
The protesters say authorities are preparing to hand the Church the site, where some Jews believe King David is buried.
The Vatican says the Pope's Middle East tour is aimed at raising awareness of the exodus of Christians from the region in the face of increasing persecution.
It is also intended to highlight the need for greater unity between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In an effort to promote inter-religious dialogue, the Pope is being accompanied by a Rabbi and an Imam, both close friends from his home city of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
The final day of the visit will see Francis visit the grounds of the Al Aqsa Mosque, as well as the Western Wall, the most holy site in Judaism.
He will also travel to the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem, before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The visit will conclude with a mass at the Cenacle in Jerusalem, the site at which the last supper is thought to have taken place.