Olive Branch -
Issue No. 153 - Saturday,
11 May 2002

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

The most important thing for me in yesterday’s happy end of the Basilica’s crisis was not only the liberation of the Church, neither the end of the suffering of the priests and Palestinians who were inside the church under siege, but the liberation of the whole Bethlehem area and the end of the 40 day’s old Israeli invasion and occupation of the city.. at the end, the 100.000 people can move out of their homes and return back to their daily life, they can go to church tomorrow and pray, they have already began to work in order to rebuild the mass destruction left in the entire infrastructure of the city and to private properties, students have already gone to school after six weeks of loss… This part of the story which is called “curfew” was the worst, unacceptable, intolerable and even inhuman, because it deprives these people of their basic rights to move, to work, to pray and to be free… It is a collective measure of punishment which is useless and unproductive. I wonder if this happened in the past history or still happens anywhere in the whole world, and I wonder how this is happening in the modern time in front of the eyes of the whole world and nobody dares to say stop it, you don’t have the right to do that, this is unacceptable… I hope that this will not be repeated any more.

Today, our Patriarch with all the heads of the churches in Jerusalem went to visit Bethlehem, the basilica, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church and met the people who were eager to go out and to see the church and walk on the streets, even if it is dirty and destroyed…

Today the three guardians of the Nativity Church: the Franciscan Fathers from the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Orthodox, cleaned the Church and especially the old basilica according to the liturgical washing and cleaning which is done one week before Christmas, simply because it was very dirty since 240 people lived inside it for 40 days under very hard conditions without, enough food, water, electricity and facilities. Therefore, it was logical that they will leave it in a very bad condition but without harming any of the historical localities or properties of the church. It needed to be cleaned also because it was desecrated by the death of 8 people inside it by the Israeli snipers, the bodies of two of them remained for 12 days in the underground grottos adjacent to the Nativity Grotto.

Tomorrow, the Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, we came back another time as a special envoy of the Pope, will celebrate a thanksgiving mass in St Catherine parish Church, many people are expected to come and join since most of them didn’t come to church since five Sundays.

The article of the Patriarch “Perspectives on the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis” was translated:
In English
In French
In Arabic
In Spanish
In Italian
You can visit it along with all the other documents of the Patriarch in my Nonviolence Homepage at: http://www.lpj.org/Nonviolence/Patriarch/Index-Pat.html

Fr. Raed Abusahlia
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
P.O.Box  14152 - Jerusalem 97500
E-mail address: latinpat@actcom.co.il
Personal e-mail: nonviolence@writeme.com
Patriarchate's Homepage: http://www.lpj.org
Personal Homepage: http://go.to/nonviolence
Fr. Labib's Homepage: http://www.al-bushra.org
My brother's Homepage: http://go.to/samipage