JERUSALEM ( Catholic World News) April 6, 1998

- Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem said in his Easter message on Tuesday that prospects for Middle East peace are bleak, and that a real solution would be the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The patriarch, who is Palestinian, said Israel is the obstacle to peace. "If they wanted peace, as they are strong enough to make peace they could have peace. If peace isn't realized it means the intentions are not right," he said. He added that this week was a time for Christians, Jews, and Muslims to unite. "The alternative will only be disputes, violence, and bloodshed," he said. Peace talks were put on hold 13 months ago over the construction of new neighborhoods near Jerusalem intended for Jewish settlers.

Patriarch Sabbah did thank Israel for loosening travel restrictions to allow thousands of Palestinian Christians to take part in the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem. "For that we say thanks to the Israeli authorities. They have taken a step but again we said that it is one step. It is the first step," he said. The patriarch called on Christians, Jews, and Muslims to pray for reconciliation during the respective holidays which coincide this year. Easter Sunday occurs at the same time as Jewish Passover and Muslim Eid al-Adha this year.