04/03/2005, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND

The Pope was always close to the sufferings of the peoples of the Holy Land, says Patriarch Sabbah

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) –  John Paul II was a messenger of peace in the Holy Land who was close to the sufferings of the two peoples who dwell upon it, said Mgr Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem as he remembered the late Pontiff.

Patriarch Sabbah this morning celebrated mass in Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation before a crowd of two thousand people, whilst in Bethlehem and Jerusalem Christians offered their prayers in memory of John Paul II.

In the City of the Nativity, Mayor Hanna Nasser declared tomorrow a day of mourning.

In Jerusalem's Saint Saviour Church a photo of the late Pontiff was placed beside the altar with a black mourning band.

In a message released by the Latin Patriarchate, Patriarch Sabbah writes that John Paul II showed "the way out of the unending tunnel of our conflict: respect for the dignity of the human person".

The Patriarch remembers the "Pastor" who "so many, many times raised his voice on behalf of justice and peace on our earth".

He also mentioned the Pope's closeness to "the sufferings of the two peoples" speaking about "the need for security of the Israeli people" and "in a manner that was loud and clear of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the need to end [Israel's] military occupation".

Patriarch Sabbah will celebrate a solemn mass in memory of the Pontiff at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at 11 am next Wednesday. (LF)

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