Holy Land Needs Peace, Says Patriarch

Archbishop Twal Presides at Midnight Mass in Bethlehem

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank, DEC. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Holy Land is in need of a lasting solution that doesn't involve war or high security walls, says the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. That solution, he says, is peace.



During Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Archbishop Fouad Twal affirmed that some 2,000 years ago God designated Bethlehem "his home and his meeting place with men."

"Around the star that marks the place of the Nativity of Jesus, a few meters from here, history has inscribed its word: 'Here Christ is born,'" the patriarch said. "Indeed, here in Bethlehem Christ is born, here the angels sang out 'Glory to God in the highest heaven' and they proclaimed to us 'To you is born this day a Savior.'

"This is the reason for our great joy. So, like the shepherds, we too go to visit the place of His birth. The Immanuel is with us. He pitched his tent among us. We must belong to him, obey him and adore him."

"On this night," he continued, "the silence of the grotto will be even louder than the voice of the canons and submachine guns. The silence of the grotto gives life to those whose voice has been suffocated by tears and who have sought refuge in silence and impotence."

Archbishop Twal called Bethlehem a "city of peace, of divine love and of reconciliation," and affirmed that "peace is a right for all men."

"It is also the solution for all conflicts and differences," he continued. "War does not produce peace, prisons do not guarantee stability.

"The highest of walls do not assure security. Neither the aggressor nor the aggressed enjoy peace. Peace is a gift of God and only God can give that peace."

Silence

The patriarch then addressed a prayer to the Christ child: "Oh Child of Bethlehem, our wait has been long and we are worn out by our situation, we are tired of ourselves too. We seek after everything except you, we cling to everything except you, we listen to everything except to you.

"We are taken in by beautiful speeches and promises. The cry of the widows and the children is mixed with the noise of canons and submachine guns, we tear the heart and shatter the silence of the grotto and of the crèche.

"We have a great need for calm, for silence! We have a great need for peace! Of that we are sure! However, more than anything else, we need childhood and innocence. You, the poor one, despite your smallness, your weakness and your poverty."

"You alone are able to give us what we lack," he added. "O Child of Bethlehem, come so that the feast might be more a feast!"

Archbishop Twal concluded with an appeal "for pardon to all nations, all individuals and families. May God who forgives us our sins, give us the courage, the power and the love to pardon those who have trespassed against us."