01/03/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Day of prayer tomorrow, for peace in Holy Land

The observance has been called for by the churches of Jerusalem. Public demonstrations have been canceled, and only religious ceremonies remain. The custodian of the Holy Land and the Latin and Greek-Melkite patriarchs are renewing their appeal with a video message.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "We ask all to observe a Day for justice and peace in the land of peace." Following the appeal of the 13 patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem, issued on December 30, the faithful of the Holy Land are preparing to dedicate January 4, the first Sunday of the new year, to prayer for an end to the conflict in the Gaza Strip, and for a lasting peace solution.

There is no particular initiative, but only the intention of praying together, among all confessions, during the Sunday Mass. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of the Franciscan custody of the Holy Land, tells AsiaNews that "during these days of apprehension, we can entrust ourselves only to prayer." This afternoon, January 3, an ecumenical prayer service has been scheduled, in which all the heads of the various churches in the Holy Land have been invited to participate.

No public initiative or celebration will be held in the next few days. "Religious ceremonies," Fr. Pizzaballa says, "are the only shared occasions that have been planned. All other public initiatives have been canceled. The solemn processions of January 5 and 6 have also been suspended."

The website of the Custody of the Holy Land today published a video message in which the patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal (in the photo, at a Christmas celebration), the Catholic Greek-Melkite patriarch, Youssef Jules Zrevy, and the Custodian renew their appeal. They ask leaders on both sides of the conflict to put down their weapons immediately, and in particular they ask the Palestinians to put the interests of the people before internal disputes. The appeal is also issued to the international community, and to the faithful of the Churches around the world: the religious leaders of the Holy Land ask all Christian communities to remember their brothers in prayers on Sunday.

As the conflict drags on, Fr. Pizzaballa says that "the factor of time is very important. The longer this situation goes on, the more difficult it becomes to resolve it, partly because hatred and the desire for revenge become stronger. So it is important to stop this immediately. It is true that the international community needs time, but it is also true that, if they are desired, solutions can be found."

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