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.
Millions of Palestinians want to return to properties their families lost after Israel's 1948 creation. Israel opposes any return of the refugees, saying it would mean the end of the country as a Jewish state.
Israel's Embassy at the Holy See said it had no immediate comment on Martino's remarks.
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 Jan. 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.
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