Patriarch Expresses Hope for New Era in Mideast

Calls on Infant of Bethlehem to Save His Homeland

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JERUSALEM, DEC. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The patriarch of Jerusalem says he hopes Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land in May will be an aid to solving the problems that plague the Middle East.

Archbishop Fouad Twal affirmed this in his Christmas message for 2008, in which he called for "a new era of peace, stability and security."

The archbishop expressed the "wish that our prayerful celebration of the Christmas feast may bring the peace desired by all peoples, founded on justice and truth" so that the land "ennobled and sanctified by the prophets, might have the chance of becoming a continuous and increasing Christmas, where joy might reign in our hearts and our families, showing forth in our streets."

He prayed to God for peace in the land, among peoples of all religions and cultures. He spoke of the need for stability in order to stop emigration, to help people avoid the need to uproot themselves "from their religious and national roots, erasing their identity."

Though recognizing the signs of hope for peace, the patriarch noted that it "does not prevent us from being saddened on a daily basis by the instability, insecurity, the unclear vision for the future, and, not least, the aggression against citizens and their land and property."

Thus, he continued: "As Bethlehem waited throughout history [...] so are we awaiting a manifestation of the Savior's grace that will put an end to the occupation and the injustice, delivering us from those fears, hardships and internal divisions that beset this land.

"We are looking forward, to the dawning of a new era, where the false road of revenge no longer leads us to perdition, but where our steps turn instead to the true path of forgiveness, where love releases those captured by hatred; an era when the sun of peace and justice rises, when greed and grudges do not rule us, and when enmities among us decline; a time when people find agreement, in a spirit of harmony and friendliness."

Archbishop Twal affirmed, "We are deeply concerned about the Holy City!"

He added, "We bear the responsibility of defending its holiness and preserving its unique characteristics. It is the very shrine where the followers of the three monotheistic religions meet: Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

"In this Christmas feast," the prelate added, "we pray for the towns, cities and villages of the Holy Land, because they are isolated from each other. With pain and deep sadness, we observe civilians being blockaded by the erection of walls and barriers. These contribute to the creation of violence and humiliation, generating grudges and hatred, whereas what we need most urgently are bridges leading to a quiet and serene life, sustained by mutual trust and friendly cooperation."

In particular, the Jerusalem patriarch decried the "unjust siege that has struck Gaza, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent residents there."

And he called Iraq a "second tragedy," saying its occupation has "brought about the destruction of its fundamental structures, transforming it into a jungle of chaos, violence and terrorism. It is our wish that all Iraqi citizens should be able to remain in their homeland. We pray for the unity of Iraq and for its return to normal life."

Archbishop Twal concluded with a prayer to the Child Jesus: "O Infant of Bethlehem, you who wanted to be born in silence and stillness, plant in our hearts a love for peace, justice and serenity! [...] O Infant of the grotto, who rejected violence, homicide and hatred, [...] expel war from your homeland, and bring an end to the destruction of its homes. [...] May your homeland be the land of blessings and prosperity, where the followers of all religions meet in harmony, so that 'no nation raises the sword against another.'"

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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-24655?l=english