Vatican calls for end to Middle East violence

The Vatican's spokesman has urged Israelis and Palestinians to renounce violence and seek a peaceful solution to their conflict after Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire. The Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio on Saturday that Israel's offensive will be a "very serious blow" to Hamas but could also cause many innocent victims and damage peace prospects in the Holy Land. Lombardi said all sides "must look for a different way out, even though it seems impossible." Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit the Holy Land in May for what would be the first papal trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since the late Pope John Paul II traveled there in a 2000 pilgrimage.