Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cardinal and Archbishop to visit Bethlehem at Advent

Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is travelling to Bethlehem with Rowan Cantuar and other leaders of ecclesial communities in England.

Cardinal and Archbishop to visit Bethlehem at Advent -06/12/06

Left to Right: Revd, David Coffey - Moderator of the Free Churches, H.E. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - Archbishop of Westminster, H.G. Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian - Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain, Most Revd. Dr. Rowan Williams - Archbishop of Canterbury, Revd. Bill Snelson - CTE General Secretary.

England and Wales Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams have announced plans for an Advent visit to Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, reports Independent Catholic News.

Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Conno

The two church leaders will be joined by Bishop Nathan Hovannisian, Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain and the Rev David Coffey, Moderator of the Free Churches, in their capacities as joint presidents of the ecumenical group Churches Together in England.
Bishop Nathan Hovannisian

In an interview with Andrew Marr on BBC Sunday AM programme yesterday morning, Cardinal Cormac said the visit was not a political mission, but a pastoral visit, "to encourage the minority Christian community in Jerusalem and especially in Bethlehem."
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Rowan Cantuar

The Cardinal said: "I think it's a very important visit really because it should be clear to everyone that in the Holy Land there are not only Muslims and Jews, there are also Christians. And it would be very sad if Christians were, as it were, being forced to leave because of the political situation there."
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photo © Wayne McLean.

He added: "I think that's very sad because the Holy Land is our land too, where there is the birthplace and life of Christ."
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The Christian community in Bethlehem is the oldest in the world and still conducts liturgies in the language Jesus spoke. But in recent years numbers have fallen dramatically. Until 20 years ago, 80 per cent of Bethlehem's citizen's were Christians. Only 15 per cent remain now.
At the Grotto of the Nativity

Many thounsands of Christian Palestinians have been forced to emigrate because of high unemployment. Others no longer live in Bethlehem because their homes and businesses which has been annexed by Israel by the construction of the 30 foot high security wall that has been built around the town, separating it from Jerusalem.

In his Midnight Mass homily at Westminster Cathedral last year (2005), Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor pleaded for the town of Bethlehem, saying he deplored the exodus of Christians and the current condition of the town of Christ's birth.

He said Bethlehem was "corralled" and "blocked in" and its economy in shreds as a result of Israeli security measures in response to terrorist violence.

Describing the people of the town as "terribly alone", he urged Christians and others to visit.

He also prayed that "the eyes and the hearts of the world be opened to what is happening there" and pleaded for a new strategy for peace , saying the Holy Land conflict had inflicted "a terrible wound on humanity" and urged the parties to the conflict to "bind that wound" and "build bridges, not walls."

On the Feast of the Epiphany this year, Dr William further urged Christians around the world to make pilgrimages to Bethlehem and remember the struggling town in their prayers.
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Both archbishops have given their support to the Open Bethlehem project, which is encouraging personal visitors and businesses to visit Bethlehem. See:


Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm misinformed, but wasn't the wall set up as a necessary security measure against high-explosive expressions of 'peace'?

Andrew said...

The sad thing about the situation in the Middle East is that everyone is currently checkmated. No one can make a move without the other side escalating it into a huge spiral of blood and fire.

The overwhelmingly superior military strenghth of the Israelis versus the desperation and murderous bravado of the Palestinians.

It's a very complex situation and I'm sure I won't do it any measure of justice but the barrier does not actualy make things better in any significant way. The Qassam rockets fly right over the barrier. Suicide blasts happen at the border checkpoints. Militants tunnel under the wall. The Palestinians face extreme hardships as they have to cross over every day to work and are targets of abuse by Israeli soldier at the checkpoints. This causes resentment.

Christian enclaves are also divided as the wall passes right through.

When attacks occur, the checkpoints are closed and the Palestinians can't work, building even more resentment and fueling more attacks. It's a terrible circle of violence.

This does in no way excuse those dammed suicide bombers who deliberately murder women and children and other non-combatants without remorse, without blinking an eye. And all the while perversely claiming divine sanction. but I don't think the wall does help in forging a lasting solution. Dante should have included a special place for just for them in his Inferno.

The only way to to secure a mutual and lasting peace is a JUST solution. There can be no peace without justice.

The Israeli kids there are escorted by armed guards cos they are suicide bomber targets. A priest friend who studied in the Holy Land said that he quickly ran across the street when he saw Israeli children approaching cos they were prime targets.

The Palestinian kids never knew any peace. Never knew what it is like to live like children. They toys are stones which they hurl at soldiers. Its so sad. The worst part is that the conflict is used as an excuse by terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to launch violent attacks against the West.

I always think that if only we can take the kids into other countries where there's peace. Show them what life can and should be like, we can break the cycle. When these kids know what its supposed to be like, what lasting peace promises, then they'll work for it and only then can they achieve it.

Peace comes from God alone. In God's time.

Anonymous said...

What puzzles me is why the surrounding moslem countries (and my goodness aren't they numerous?) don't step in and help house, clothe, feed, employ their 'brothers and sisters' in the faith. So strange to hear and read people proclaiming against the perceived wrongs of the Israeli state when it comes to advocating violence against said Israelis, but no sight or sound of a constructive solution such as improving the palestinian situation by peaceful means. Surely there's some spare oil money lying around somewhere?

But perhaps there are major factors I'm unaware of. Maybe it'd be intolerant of the surrounding states to ask the palestinians nicely to stop brainwashing their own children into the cult of the exploding vest.

....I dunno.