Patriarch asks for pilgrimages to Bethlehem

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In a recent article in Toronto`s Catholic Register, Michael Swan reports on recent comments by the Latin-Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem on the current peace proposal from Saudi Arabia as well as the role of pilgrims to the Holy Land and especially Bethlehem. The patriarch`s view is precisely why the pilgrimage that I am preparing will stay partly in Israeli hotels and partly in Palestinian hotels. It`s very important to also show our solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land.

The Latin-rite patriarchate and Pax Christi International are once again participating in an Advent program of e-mailed wishes and prayers for peace in Bethlehem. Run by the Arab Educational Institute in Bethlehem, the program asks for e-mailed prayers and wishes for peace before Dec. 25 from Western Christians and before Jan. 4 from Orthodox Christians. Prayers and wishes can be e-mailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

It will take international pressure to push both sides to a negotiated, political settlement, said Twal.

“Can the Canadian bishops, the Canadian government, the Canadian journalists — can they have an influence on the political result? That’s the work,” Twal said.

Peace is the only way to stop the decline in the Christian population, according to the patriarch. While an increase in pilgrimages to Bethlehem and other holy sites would be welcome in a region dependent on tourism, reopening religious goods shops in the narrow streets of Bethlehem won’t change the picture for young Palestinian Christians, he said.

“You cannot forget the occupation. You cannot forget the wall separating the Christians and the Muslims. You cannot forget that this wall separates families, separates good wills — even the good people are separated, even those who are struggling for peace and security cannot meet each other,” Twal said. “You ask how the Christians are living. What can they do behind the wall? When they finish Bethlehem University, people who have their degree, what can they do?”

The patriarch asked the small delegation of journalists to encourage Canadians to make pilgrimages, pointing out that there had never been a recorded incident of a pilgrim being harmed in terrorist attacks.

“They (pilgrims) give us a  sense of communion with them. They give us the idea we are not alone, we are not abandoned, we are not a small minority here abandoned,” he said. “But the world church, the Christian world is thinking with us. We receive many helps from the world outside. We do not receive what we need more — peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.”


  1. I think there was a fight a couple of weeks ago between Armenian and Greek Orthodox clergy. Thank God there are no fights every week …but doesn’t such fights make you think twice before spending all that money to fly to Bethlehem? It also doesn’t give a very good image, does it?

  2. As a Catholic I have a problem with the one-sided activities of Pax Christi. One only has to peruse the news and activities section of their own website to see their selective attention of what constitutes terror and oppression and “peace which amounts to rewarding capitulating to terror. Don’t take my word for it. Visit their site and educate yourself.

    And please, let get real here: It’s not “a Wall” which sort of sprouted up spontaneously between cultures. It’s proper name is the ATB (i.e. Anti Terror Barrier) and it’s purpose is to prevent the ONE WAY FLOW of terrorists, weapons and bombs from the palestinian side to the Israel/Christian side. Between 2000-2004 (prior to the building of the ATB) nearly a thousand civilians were murdered and many thousands were seriously maimed by Fatah, Hexbollah, Hamas and the PFLP. Unless Pax can honestly address those four elephants in the room, they’ll get no support from me.

  3. It is a wall. You have only to walk from Israel into
    Bethlehem to know it for what it is. Israel must protect itself, but it must also protect the dignity of the many peaceful
    people in Palestine, whether or not they are Christians.

    Between 2000-2006 4,209 Palestinians died

    1,556 Israelis

    Every life is precious and it will not insure security or bring
    peace if we distort the facts.

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