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Pope urges end to Mideast violence
VALLETTA, Malta -- Pope John Paul II has ended his pilgrimage across the Mediterranean with an appeal for an end to Mideast violence.
His comments came after two Israeli teenage boys were found battered to death in a cave near a Jewish West Bank settlement.
"Again today we hear sad news from the Holy Land, of terrible violence even against young people," the Pope said on Wednesday.
"We must all intensify our prayers for peace in the land of Jesus," he added.
The pope was presiding over a mass in Malta's capital, Valletta, to beatify three revered Maltese Catholics -- the culmination of his ground-breaking three-country tour which has taken him in the footsteps of Saint Paul.
Nearly 200,000 people -- more than half of Malta's population -- gathered in a vast square where the pope had also appeared on his first tour of the Mediterranean island nation 11 years ago.
"In the footsteps of St. Paul, I have come back to you," said the pope from a raised wooden altar.
The open-air beatification ceremony was for two Maltese priests and a nun who lived in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Maltese priest George Preca, one of the three, is known locally as "Dun Gorg."
He founded a society for the promotion of Christianity, the Society of Christian Doctrine, in 1907, which prepares children for Holy Communion.
Also beatified was Benedictine nun Maria Adeodata Pisani, the daughter of a Maltese baron, and Ignatius Falzon, who graduated with a degree in theology but would not be ordained a priest.
Falzon is best known for teaching catechism among British servicemen at a time when Malta was annexed to the British Crown.
The pope arrived in Malta on Tuesday on the last leg of a six-day journey across the Mediterranean.
The pontiff's two-day visit to the Roman Catholic Church's oldest bastion of faith in Europe, and the only country in Europe where divorce is illegal, is his second in 11 years.
A predominantly Catholic country, despite 200 years of Arab occupation, Malta fell under Christian influence after St Paul's ship carrying him to Rome as a prisoner was shipwrecked on its rocky eastern coast in AD 60.
The account of the shipwreck is given in the Acts of the Apostles, making Malta one of the very few countries to be mentioned specifically in the Bible.
The pope is in Malta after landmark visits to Greece, where he asked for forgiveness for 1,000 years of Catholic sins against the Orthodox, and Syria, where he became the first pontiff to enter a mosque in Islam's 1,400-year history.
Pope pilgrimage enters final day
John Paul II
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