Friday, January 02, 2004

Better things to worry about?

Is the Vatican out of touch?

Pope John Paul's representative in the Holy Land said in a Christmas sermon Israel's building of a huge barrier in the West Bank was a blow to Middle East peace efforts.

Christian Palestinians and foreign pilgrims who made their way through Israeli army roadblocks flocked to Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus, to pack the ancient Church of the Nativity for Christmas midnight mass.

But the crowd was a far cry from the many thousands of pilgrims who poured into Bethlehem for Christmas before Palestinians launched an uprising in 2000 for statehood.

"The military barrier is turning Palestinian cities and villages into a huge prison, demolishing houses and agriculture (in its path)," Patriarch Michel Sabbah, who celebrated the mass, said in his sermon.

"The wall not only causes material damage... It contradicts the nature of the Holy Land, of two peoples living together," Sabbah, a Palestinian, said.

He called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to find the "courage to take decisions necessary for peace".

Outside the church, banners hanging from facades in Manger Square condemned the barrier, which Israel says is necessary to stop suicide bombers attacking the Jewish state. Palestinians say the barrier robs them of land they want for a state.

"Stop the wall, don't turn Bethlehem into a ghetto" and "The Holy Land doesn't need walls, but bridges," read the banners.

Seems like the Vatican should have bigger things to worry about...


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