Vatican official backs right of return

Head of Vatican's office for migrants says he hopes post-Annapolis talks will address the issue.

Annapolis wave 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Annapolis wave 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A Vatican official said Wednesday that Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homeland, and said he hoped Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would address the issue. Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican's office for migrants, said an agreement to restart peace talks, reached Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, was encouraging and that he hoped by this time next year concrete measures would be under way. "It is my hope that all the parts of the problem are taken into consideration such as that of the Palestinian refugees, who like all other refugees, have the right to return to their homeland," Martino said. The Palestinian refugee issue, which has bedeviled previous Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, was not directly mentioned in the Annapolis statement, though the agreement pledges to resolve all "core issues" by the end of next year. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel would agree to a return of the refugees only within the borders of a future Palestinian state. "Israel also believes that Palestinian refugees should have the right to return to their homeland, which is the Palestinian state, which will be established within the framework of the negotiations," he told The Associated Press in Washington. Martino spoke at a news conference to launch Pope Benedict XVI's annual message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which the Catholic Church marks on January 13. In his message, Benedict called for countries that receive immigrants to help young migrants in particular to better integrate into society. "The school system itself should take their conditions into consideration and provide specific formative paths of integration for the immigrant boys and girls that are suited to their needs," he wrote. Benedict said students on study abroad programs also constitute a group of "temporary migrants" who need particular pastoral care. "Be respectful of the laws and never let yourselves be carried away by hatred and violence," Benedict wrote. He did not mention the slaying of a British student studying in Perugia, which has captured headlines in Italy and elsewhere. However, at the news conference, Monsignor Novatus Rugambwa, Martino's undersecretary, cited the Perugia slaying as an example of some of the dangers that can come with students living abroad. "Many undergo a sort of culture shock and instability living in new countries, communities and academic worlds," he said, noting that new languages, religions, cultures as well as economic problems and severed links with family can contribute to the culture shock. "Many experiment for the first time with a type of 'freedom' that on the one hand can liberate them, but on the other can disorient them," he warned.