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Jerusalem Patriarch condemns Israeli occupation

In his Easter message to the people of the Holy Land, Latin Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah insists that the key to peace lies in the end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

The Patriarch asked all the faithful to join him in a prayer for "a just and definitive peace which puts an end to the bloodshed, the demolition of houses, the siege, the humiliations" that mark the Israeli occupation.

"The way which leads to peace is in itself clear and simple," the Patriarch continued. "It gives back to the Palestinian his freedom, land and dignity, puts an end to his sufferings and guarantees his security and tranquility, this way consists of removing a military fact which weighs upon the land since 1967: the Occupation of the Palestinian Territories."

If Israel were to withdraw from the occupied territories, Patriarch Sabbah suggested, "This measure will regenerate a new life in this Holy Land, and will allow all its inhabitants to participate in its holiness."

Meanwhile Pope John Paul used his traditional Easter message to plead for peace in a Middle East "plunged again in these very days into horror and despair". He said that the escalating violence there made it seem "that war has been declared on peace".

The Holy Father appealed to Christian communities around the world to proclaim the resurrection of Christ and work to "end the tragic sequence of attacks and killings that bloody the Holy Land".

"Peace in the manner of the world - the experience of every age shows it - is often a precarious balance of powers, that sooner or later turn against one another once more," the Pope said, speaking to a crowd of around 70,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square.

Also at the weekend, the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano denounced the inertia of world leaders in the face of the renewed Middle East conflict.


2 Apr