Press release from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Saturday, April 6, 2002

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is very sad that for the first time and because of war you won't be able tomorrow to reach the Basilica of the Nativity for the Sunday mass and prayers. I would have dearly wanted to be with you and to pray with you but it is forbidden until this very moment to get there. Nonetheless we call upon all of you our faithful to pray for tomorrow for the cause of peace; for an end to this war; and for the politicians to understand that the only way for a durable peace in this region is only and uniquely justice.

As for what is taking place in the Basilica of the Nativity itself, we are deploying every effort in order to put an end to this deadlock. False news and rumors were propagated to the effect that the Franciscan brothers are being held hostages inside their convent by the Palestinians. An official communiquee by the Custody of the Holy Land declared that this is not true. We also declare that this is false, and we strongly condemn this false news that only add insult to injury. We also strongly condemn the siege of the Basilica and the psychological war waged by the Israeli soldiers around it.

From Bethlehem our heart goes to all of the other cities and locations which had been invaded and are now under siege. We call upon all of you faithful, Christians and Muslims alike, to keep faith and courage. We are with you and peace-loving people all over the world are with you. The Holy Father John Paul II himself, the Churches of the world and many politicians are working toward putting an end to this ordeal. May the peace of the Lord be with you all.

Tomorrow, the Annunciation feast, we will pray for you and with you in Nazareth. May God bless you, give you courage and keep you safe.

+ Michel Sabbah, Patriarch