Catholic church leader says separation walls should come down
Fouad Twal, head of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories, called during the traditional Christmas Eve midnight mass at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity to bring down walls separating people in the region, dpa reported.
"History teaches us that the will of the people, with their aspirations to peace and freedom, is stronger than the power of injustice," said Twal in the sermon attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
"We hope that with the grace of God and with the support of people of goodwill, the physical and psychological walls that men build around themselves may disappear," he said. "God wants bridges that unite rather than walls that separate that which God has united. Dear brothers and sisters let us tear down the walls of our hearts in order to tear down the walls of concrete."
Twal's annual Christmas Eve procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem earlier Saturday took him through a big metal gate in an 8-metre high concrete wall that separates Jerusalem from its neighbouring Palestinian cities, including Bethlehem. The gate remains closed throughout the year but opens only for Israeli military personnel and for the patriarch's motorcade.
Twal congratulated Abbas for "unfaltering efforts to achieve a just peace in the Middle East, a main thrust of which is the creation of a Palestinian state."
He said that the Palestinians have recently turned to the United Nations in the hope of finding a just solution to the conflict, with the intention of living in peace and safety with their neighbours.
"They have been asked to re-engage in a failed peace process. This process has left a bitter taste of broken promises and of mistrust," he said.
Nevertheless, Twal prayed for peace "and nothing but peace."
"We ask for peace for the Palestinian people and for the Israeli people," he said. "We ask for peace, stability and security for the entire Middle East so that our children and their children may live their childhood in innocence, in a healthy environment where they may play together without fear."
Twal prayed for the "return of calm and reconciliation in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq and in North Africa."
"Our region is undergoing radical changes that affect our present and our future," he said. We cannot stand by as mere spectators."