Custodian of Holy Land Urges Rebirth of Dialogue
JERUSALEM, JAN. 6, 2003 ( The superior of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land made a New Year's appeal to political leaders worldwide to make 2004 "the year of the rebirth of dialogue and peace."

"'Peace on earth to men of good will,' the angels sang while announcing the birth of Christ," Father Giovanni Battistelli told the Italian episcopate's SIR news agency. "However, where in the Holy Land are the men of good will? Those who can, those who govern, should transform words into concrete actions of peace."

"Those who have the fate of peoples in their hands must find practical means to overcome the difficulties," he said. "The wall of separation, murders, terrorist attacks, and various confrontations are no good in this land."

"2003 has left us a trail of blood, but also the Pope's words full of hope, who does not forget the sufferings of the people who live here," Father Battistelli continued.

The Franciscan sees a bright spot. "Pilgrims returning to the holy places are increasing," he said. "The return of pilgrims also contributes to give local communities both the spiritual and material support that will make them stay and not emigrate."