Olive Branch - Issue No. 150 -
Tuesday, 30 April 2002

Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

What I want to say in today’s editorial was very will said and expressed in the interview which was published by Fides, therefore I will let you read it and I hope that you will hear the message I wanted to say loudly in front of the world: “The siege has lasted for a month and the few Christians in the Holy Land are wondering where are the other two billion Christians in the world? What are they doing?"

Arrival tomorrow of Papal Envoy kindles new hope for Bethlehem siege

Jerusalem (Fides) – There is growing expectation among Christians in the Holy Land, for the arrival tomorrow, May 1, of Papal Envoy French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, formerly President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, charged in the past with many delicate missions by Pope John Paul II. His task this time is to try to solve the situation of stalemate at the Nativity Church compound in Bethlehem occupied and under siege now for almost a month. The news was announced by the Holy See spokesman Dr Navarro-Valls this morning, who said that Pope John Paul "out of concern for peace in the Holy Land and for those Christian communities, and for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples" was sending the Cardinal to Jerusalem.

Fides spoke to Father Raed Abusahlia, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. The priest voiced his satisfaction for the visit: "We are anxious to welcome Cardinal Etchegaray. We have strong hopes that this will be not just a visit of solidarity: we hope it will contribute to finding a solution to the tragic siege of the Nativity Church. People are pinning their hopes on the Cardinal, confident that as the "Pope’s messenger", he will employ all the weight of the moral authority and international credibility of the Catholic Church for peace".

Father Abusahlia continued: "The Cardinal’s mission may be the last chance to relieve an unbearable situation, truly inhuman, not only for the people inside the Church compound, but for all the people in this region. Some 100,000 men, women and children in Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, and surrounding refugee camps and villages live under a 24 hour curfew except for a few hours a day. This means no work, no school, no food. They cannot stand it much longer, they are desperate, starving, the sick and the elderly are dying. This collective punishment is unacceptable."

The situation affects also spiritual life. Father Abusahlia explains that for "four weeks now there has been no Sunday Liturgy for either, Catholic or Orthodox Christians. Sunday May 5 is Orthodox Easter. If the Orthodox community here is denied the celebration of the Easter Solemnity it will an be extremely serious fact, unprecedented in 2000 years. The Church must be restored to the faithful before the end of the week. The siege has lasted for a month and the few Christians in the Holy Land are wondering where are the other two billion Christians in the world? What are they doing?"

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray will arrive in Jerusalem tomorrow May 1. He will meet high level officials. On Sunday May 5 he is due to say Mass at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. "We hope with all our hearts - Father Abusahlia concludes – that he can celebrate that Mass at the Church of the Nativity, restored to the Christian faithful."      (Fides 30/4/2002)

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