Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Israel must make peace, Catholic patriarch says

"If Israel decides for peace, we will have peace." Those were the words of Latin-rite Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, in presenting his annual Christmas message.

The top Catholic prelate in the Holy Land said that he welcomed the peace talks in Annapolis, which seemed to show a renewed interest in genuine negotiation. Ultimately, he said, the prospects for peace will be determined by Israel's willingness to meet the demands of Palestinians for a genuinely autonomous independent state.

Archbishop Sabbah said that longstanding dispute between Israel and Palestine has disrupted the entire Middle East. "The entire region, because of the conflict in the Holy Land, is in turmoil," he said. The ripples from that conflict have spread out into neighboring countries, giving rise to the current violence in Iraq and in Lebanon, he said, and "the forces of evil..,. have been unleashed" because of the failure to find a lasting peace.

Israel must make a decision to allow for Palestinian autonomy, the patriarch said, in order to defuse the conflict. "This land cannot be exclusive for anyone," he said.

The Catholic leader questioned the idea of a confessional Jewish state in a pluralistic world. "If there's a state of one religion," he said, "other religions are naturally discriminated against." +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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