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Latin patriarch calls for end of occupation in Holy Land

Video by FRANCE 3 , Luke SHRAGO

Latest update : 2008-12-24

Fuad Twal, the leader of Roman Catholics in the Holy Land, in his Christmas message called for an end to "occupation and injustice" and spoke out against the separation barrier in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

AFP - The Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem on Tuesday prayed for an end of "occupation and injustice" in the Holy Land and voiced concern for the future of the Holy City he said is "strangled by settlements."
"As Bethlehem waited throughout history for the one who would 'smash the yoke that burdened' the people... so we are awaiting a manifestation of the saviour's grace that will put an end to the occupation,"  Fuad Twal said in his Christmas message.
He also expressed concern for the future "in the homeland of Christ" of the Christian community whose numbers are dwindling, and particularly for the  future of Jerusalem.
"We do not forget what divides us: greed mixed with injustice, violence and man's persecution of his fellow man. All these beset the Holy City, not mentioning the building of settlements which strangle it," said Twal, the leader of Roman Catholics in the Holy Land.
He spoke out sternly against the separation barrier and the hundreds of roadblocks that restrict movement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
"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," he said, reading his message before journalists in Jerusalem.
He also addressed the situation in Gaza City, where Israel recently tightened a crippling embargo it imposed last year in a bid to pressure Palestinian militants into halting their rocket fire.
"Together with all the Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East, we turn to our faithful and to all the citizens of the Holy Land, living in deteriorating conditions, especially the unjust siege that has struck Gaza and the hundreds of thousands of innocent residents there," Twal said.
"We also call upon the Palestinians themselves to return to unity in the context of a recognised Palestinian legal structure, and in this way to spare the people the continuing and degrading siege."
Palestinians have been deeply divided since the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, ousting forces loyal to secular president Mahmud Abbas who now only holds sway in the West Bank.
Twal also announced that Pope Benedict XVI will visit the Holy Land in May.
Born into a Bedouin Christian tribe in Jordan in 1949, Twal was enthroned in June as the new Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the title given to the Latin rite Roman Catholic archbishop of Israel and Palestine.
He replaced Michel Sabbah, who retired at the age of 75.

Date created : 2008-12-24