Patriarch slams Israeli occupation

The patriarch of Jerusalem has called for an end to the violence which he said has turned Palestinian towns into prisons.

    Michel Sabbah (L) says Palestinian towns are like prisons

    Reverend Michel Sabbah made the plea during prayers at the annual Christmas mass in Bethlehem on Saturday.

    "Our situation is a situation of conflict and of violence, of

    insecurity and of fear, of military occupation, of the separation

    barrier, of prison towns, of humiliations," Sabbah told a

    congregation of several thousand at the Church of the Nativity.

    "We pray that all walls fall down, those around Bethlehem and

    the other Palestinian towns, and the walls of hatred in our hearts.

    "We say that it has lasted too long. It is time to conquer the

    violence in the souls and in the hearts of individuals, of leaders,"

    he said.

    Sabbah welcomed the fact that for the first time in four years

    Israel had allowed the Palestinian leadership, including Palestinian Liberation Organisation

    chairman Mahmud Abbas,

    to attend.

    Palestinian unity

    Before his death last month, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat was a regular guest at

    midnight mass after his return to the Palestinian territories in

    1994.

    He was then confined by Israel to his offices in Ram Allah from

    early December 2001.

    "Our situation is a situation of conflict and of violence, of

    insecurity and of fear, of military occupation, of the separation

    barrier, of prison towns, of humiliations"

    Michel Sabbah,
    Jerusalem patriarch

    "You wanted to continue in the tradition started by President

    Arafat, recently departed for eternity, and to be present with us on

    this holy night," Sabbah said.

    Abbas is the firm favourite to succeed Arafat as president of

    the Palestinian Authority in elections to be held on 9 January.

    By their attendance the leadership showed its commitment, as

    Arafat had before, to the "Christian presence among the Palestinian

    people", he said.

    Now they had the responsibility of the people's "unity, its

    march towards justice and peace, and for maintaining order", he

    added.

    SOURCE: AFP


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