The following message was printed in the Jerusalem Diocesan Bulletin
of the Latin Patriarchate:
(From Jerusalem, on February 24th 2003.)
An urgent appeal for Bethlehem
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custos of the Holy(land) launched an S.O.S. for Bethlehem to the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and the Christians of the world.
This is an urgent appeal!
Please, do whatever you can:
-through your own government,
-through the Israeli embassy in your country,
-through the Israeli government itself.
A wall isolates Bethlehem,
The Israeli military authorities have taken the decision to separate the Palestinian Territories from Israel by a long wall passing through the whole Country. Works have now reached Bethlehem.
Because of this Israeli decision, sixty Christian families, near Rachel's Tomb, at the entrance of Bethlehem, are being encircled, isolated and deprived of all services, and have only a small entry, through an eight-meter high wall, that will also isolate the city of Bethlehem from Jerusalem and the other Territories.*
We address this urgent appeal also to all the Christians in the world:
-Before it is too late,
-do something to preserve Bethlehem as a city where one can go , pray and live in peace.;
-convince the Israeli authorities to stop this measure of building the wall at the entrance of the very holy city of Christmas, the city of Bethlehem!
The inhabitants of Bethlehem and particularly the Christians, seeing themselves closed in, threatened by serious hardship to the point where some of them may feel constrained to leave the country, appeal to you! This is an S.O.S. cry!
From Jerusalem, on February 24th 2003.
The Latin Patriarch, The Custos of the Holy Land,
Michel Sabbah Fr. Giovanni Battistelli, OFM