In a recent article in Toronto`s Catholic Register, Michael Swan reports on recent comments by the Latin-Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem on the current peace proposal from Saudi Arabia as well as the role of pilgrims to the Holy Land and especially Bethlehem. The patriarch`s view is precisely why the pilgrimage that I am preparing will stay partly in Israeli hotels and partly in Palestinian hotels. It`s very important to also show our solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land.
The Latin-rite patriarchate and Pax Christi International are once again participating in an Advent program of e-mailed wishes and prayers for peace in Bethlehem. Run by the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem, the program asks for e-mailed prayers and wishes for peace before Dec. 25 from Western Christians and before Jan. 4 from Orthodox Christians. Prayers and wishes can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It will take international pressure to push both sides to a negotiated, political settlement, said Twal.
“Can the Canadian bishops, the Canadian government, the Canadian journalists — can they have an influence on the political result? That’s the work,” Twal said.
Peace is the only way to stop the decline in the Christian population, according to the patriarch. While an increase in pilgrimages to Bethlehem and other holy sites would be welcome in a region dependent on tourism, reopening religious goods shops in the narrow streets of Bethlehem won’t change the picture for young Palestinian Christians, he said.
“You cannot forget the occupation. You cannot forget the wall separating the Christians and the Muslims. You cannot forget that this wall separates families, separates good wills — even the good people are separated, even those who are struggling for peace and security cannot meet each other,” Twal said. “You ask how the Christians are living. What can they do behind the wall? When they finish Bethlehem University, people who have their degree, what can they do?”
The patriarch asked the small delegation of journalists to encourage Canadians to make pilgrimages, pointing out that there had never been a recorded incident of a pilgrim being harmed in terrorist attacks.
“They (pilgrims) give us a sense of communion with them. They give us the idea we are not alone, we are not abandoned, we are not a small minority here abandoned,” he said. “But the world church, the Christian world is thinking with us. We receive many helps from the world outside. We do not receive what we need more — peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.”