Mideast Strife Takes Luster Out of Easter

Latin Patriarch Makes Ecumenical Appeal

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JERUSALEM, APR. 15, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Amid ongoing violence in the Mideast, few pilgrims showed up for Easter Sunday events in Jerusalem.



Inhabitants of Palestinian territories were forbidden to participate in rites in the Holy City. Yet, on Jerusalem´s streets, children could be heard saying the Easter greeting "Christos anesti" -- Christ has truly risen.

This greeting was pronounced earlier in the Basilica of the Resurrection. The greeting was also exchanged among Catholics, Orthodox, Eastern Christians and Protestants, who this year celebrated Jesus´ resurrection on the same day.

Patriarch Michel Sabbah said during his homily that the coincidence of calendars is "a call to unity, a sign that reminds us of God´s will, who wills us to walk together toward unity, confident that we can overcome everything that makes the road difficult. And we thank God for the love that reigns among our Churches here in Jerusalem. Yet God asks us for even more."

The ancient tradition of Jerusalem was repeated with the proclamation of the four Gospels of the resurrection of Jesus, around the Sepulcher where the event took place. However, few pilgrims were able to attend the event. In fact, even today there were reports of shootings and confrontations, as well as attempts to renew dialogue.

The violence has also crippled the tourist industry in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Following John Paul II´s visit in March 2000, the Israeli government estimated that 3 million pilgrims and tourists would come in 2001. Now, the government estimates that 20,000 workers have been dismissed from hotels, restaurants and other businesses that depend on tourism.

Palestinian cities have been blockaded by Israel since the beginning of the "intifada" last Sept. 28. To date, the wave of violence has resulted in some 500 deaths.