Olive Branch - Issue No. 124 - Saturday, 22 December 2001
Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,
The last days before Christmas are always very busy, because we try to finalize the last preparations for Bethlehem Celebrations. Also this year I send you in the below document the details of what will happen in Bethlehem during the 24th & 25th according to the “Status Quo” regulations.
Yesterday, the Patriarch celebrated a mass in the Shepherds Grottos in Beit Sahour for the Arab Educational Institute which is affiliated to Pax Christi International. The Mass was attended by members of the Institute, both Moslems and Christians, and this years, we invited many other personalities responsible of the several NGOs in Bethlehem area, including the Governor and the Mayer of Beit Jala, because we wanted after the mass to announce the initiative of the Peace & Justice March from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, during the dinner which was offered to more than 100 persons. We were very happy that all of them supported the idea of the March and promised to take part in it and encourage other to join also. During the mass several prayers, support letter and good wishes sent by many friends from all over the world, were read and hanged on a Christmas tree. The atmosphere of the Shepherds Grottos of Beit Sahour, reminded us of the time of Jesus and the story of the Gospel… We really spent a wonderful time in the simplicity of that place.
Everybody is asking whether President Arafat will attend the Midnight
Mass in Bethlehem or not, especially after the news which say that the
Israelis will not allow him out of Ramallah these days. Many are asking
what is the position and the reaction of the churches? Let me share with
you the following simple and personal ideas about this: 1) We are really
astonished from this behavior and we hope that they will not insist on
it, because Mr. Arafat is the elected president of the Palestinian people
both Moslems and Christians, and it is really very strange that a symbol
of a whole nation, recognized by the whole world will be treated like this.
2) Even if he will not come he will be more present in his absence since this will be the best indication of how they deal with the whole Palestinian people, if they do this with the president, what they can do with the poor simple people? Therefore, we say that he has not to be there in order to be present, even if he used to come every year since the arrival of the Palestinian Authority to Bethlehem in 1994.
3) As the Patriarch said yesterday in Beit Sahour: the road from Bethlehem and to Bethlehem are road for peace not for war, because in this city was born the Prince of Peace our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, forbidding the president from coming, closing these road by checkpoints, invading the city with Israeli Tanks as they did last month will not and never help to build peace, because the coming of the President to Bethlehem will be the best sign of his deep desire and the of the Palestinian People of peace and justice not only for the Palestinians but also for the Israelis and in the whole country… Therefore we say, don’t block the roads for peace but open your heard and mind for justice.
Fr. Raed Abusahlia
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
P.O.Box 14152 - Jerusalem 97500
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Patriarchate's Homepage: http://www.lpj.org
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