The Pope has made further appeals for peace in the Middle East. On Friday, during a meeting with Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, the Pope is said to have discussed the war in Iraq and the need to limit the suffering of the civilian population, with the hope that the international community helps the Iraqis themselves to be the architects of reconstruction. The Vatican press office said the problem of Israel and Palestine was discussed, as well as a rapid solution which allows for the coexistence of two sovereign states as an indispensable condition for peace in the Middle East. On Sunday, before praying the Angelus today with the faithful who had assembled in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father recalled that forty years ago, on April 11, 1963, Blessed John XXIII published "the Encyclical 'Pacem in terris' (Peace on earth) in which he traced the outline for an efficacious promotion of peace in the world. This Encyclical is still very current today." John Paul II added that "building peace is a 'permanent commitment'. The reality of these days shows this in a dramatic way. My thoughts now go in a special way to Iraq and all those involved in the war that continues. I am thinking especially of the defenseless civilian populations who in various cities are undergoing harsh trials. May it be God's will that this conflict will soon end and give way to a new era of pardon, love and peace." "To obtain this goal," he went on, "we must start with the same spirit that animated my venerated predecessor: a spirit of faith, above all, together with realistic and farsighted wisdom. In the Encyclical, he included among 'the signs of the times', the spreading of the 'persuasion that eventual controversies among peoples must not be resolved by recourse to arms, but rather through negotiation'. Unfortunately, this positive goal of civilisation has not yet been reached."
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