Palestine Liberation Organization
Negotiations Affairs Department
13 September 2012
Dr. Shaath on Papal visit to Lebanon: "We call upon Pope Benedict XVI to support the rights of Palestinian refugees"
Senior Palestinian official and member of the Palestinian negotiations team for the Holy See, Dr. Nabil Shaath, praised Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his visit to Lebanon and called upon the Holy See to “continue its efforts to bring peace and justice to the region.”
“We wish Pope Benedict a pleasant stay in the region. Visiting Lebanon after his visit to Palestine in 2009 will provide him with a clearer understanding of the urgency of the situation and the desperate need for concrete action.”
On the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Dr. Shaath said: “According to official figures, Lebanon hosts 450,000 Palestinian Christians and Muslims. These are people whose rights to their homeland have been denied for over 64 years. We call upon Pope Benedict XVI to support their right to live in dignity and the right to work while in Lebanon, as well as their internationally recognized right to return.”
Regarding the situation of Palestinian Christians, Dr. Shaath added: “Last week I joined Christians in Cremisan, Beit Jala, who were praying for the withdrawal of Israeli plans to build the Wall on the last remaining piece of land in the community. Such appalling actions must be stopped. We call upon the Holy See and Christians around the world to support the presence of Christians in the Holy Land by forcing Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land and by recognizing the Palestinian State on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Working decisively towards this vision will bring genuine promise to the current grim reality that currently exists here.”
Dr. Shaath concluded: “we respectfully reiterate our call upon the Holy See to recognize the State of Palestine, as an investment in peace, and as a tangible step towards the fulfilment of Palestinian rights.”
From the official number of 450,000 Palestinian refugees, an important number are Palestinian Christians who were expelled by Israel in 1948. This figure includes the people of Al Dbayeh refugee camp, whose population is fully Christian and who came from villages destroyed by Israel in the Galilee. In 2010, the Greek Catholic (Melkite) church of the camp was restored under the auspices of President Mahmoud Abbas.