Bethlehem, 13 Shafar 1434/26 December 2012 (WAFA/MINA) – Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said in his Christmas Eve sermon at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza causes severe suffering to the Palestinian people.
“We live under very difficult conditions because of an unending Israeli occupation,” he said in the sermon he gave in Arabic at the midnight mass attended by President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and a number of Palestinian officials, foreign diplomats and international and local guests.
“The occupation controls our land and food and confiscates our word, water and air,” he said.
“Christmas is an occasion for celebration, even at a time when many of you are suffering for one reason or another. Thousands of young people are anxiously waiting in prison to regain their freedom. Families are separated and awaiting travel permissions in order to live or gather together under the same roof. You continue to suffer the unending occupation,” he said.
Twal expressed sympathy for the people of Gaza who just came out from an 8-day Israeli military onslaught that killed over 160 people, wounded hundreds others and caused heavy destruction to homes and infrastructure.
“Gaza and the south of Israel have just emerged from a war with consequences that are still visible both physically and mentally,” he said. “Our prayer includes all Arab and Jewish families that have been touched by the conflict. May the Lord give them patience, comfort and consolation, and that communities and people all over the world offer them assistance and support.”
The Latin Patriarch called for peace and reconciliation in Palestine and the region.
“We, the faithful of the monotheistic religions are in agreement that the divisions between men are the work of the devil, while reconciliation is God’s work,” he said.
“From this holy place, I invite politicians and men of good will to work with determination for peace and reconciliation that encompasses Palestine and Israel in the midst of all the sufferings in the Middle East,” he said.
Twal expressed sympathy for the people of Syria who are suffering from a civil war and for other Middle East countries.
“Let us pray fervently for our brothers and sisters in Syria, who are dying mercilessly. Let us pray for the people of Egypt who are fighting for national agreement, freedom and equality. Let us pray for unity and reconciliation in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Sudan, in the other countries of the region and the rest of the world. Let us pray for stability and prosperity in Jordan,” he said.
Addressing Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, Twal called on them “to continue to fight for a just cause to achieve peace and security for the people of the Holy Land.”
“You, Mr. President, with His Majesty King Abdullah II, have been at the forefront of those who worked and continue to work for nonviolence, peace and justice. May the Lord bless and protect you. We appreciate your efforts and the courageous positions you have taken at the regional and international levels,” he said.
Talking to Abbas, Twal said, “Your efforts have borne fruit in the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. This recognition should be a decisive step towards peace and security for all. Only justice and peace in the Holy Land can re-establish balance and stability in the region and in the world.” (T/R-011/R-006)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)