DAMASCUS, May 7, 01 (CWNews.com) – In a dramatic appearance on the Golan Heights, in a town that was destroyed by warfare, Pope John Paul II made an impassioned plea for peace in the Middle East.
The Pope made his plea at Quneitra, a town about 22 miles from the Israeli border. Quneitra was occupied by Israeli troops during the 1967 war, and every building was leveled before the Israeli forces pulled out. The Syrian government has not rebuilt the main structures of the town, leaving it instead as a memorial to the devastation of warfare. Pope John Paul read his prayer for peace in the remains of a Greek Orthodox Church. "From this place, so disfigured by war, I wish to raise my hear and voice in prayer for peace in the Holy Land and the world," the Pope prayed. He asked
God’s help to "break down the walls of hostility and division in the region" and give both sides "the courage to forgive one another, so that the wounds of the past may be healed and not become a pretext for further suffering."  
Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls later cautioned reporters against interpreting the Pope’s prayer as a political gesture. "The sole objective and the sole reason" for the trip to Quneitra, he repeated, "was to pray for peace." Navarro-Valls added that "people of good will… will understand and can only appreciate this gesture."