08/03/2006, 00.00
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Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem: Pray and fast for peace

Mgr Michael Sabbah has launched an appeal against violence in Gaza and South Lebanon. And he has called on Israel to restore "freedom and independence" to the Palestinians as a condition for peace.

Jersualem (AsiaNews) –In a message issued today, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michael Sabbah, condemned the capture of Israeli soldiers in Gaza and in southern Lebanon, but "at the same time condemned" the capture of Palestinians by Israel: "For years, 10,000 Palestinian prisoners have been in Israeli prisons. These too have parents and beloved ones waiting for their return. Indeed every human person has an equal human dignity, whether Palestinian or Israeli."

The publication of his message coincides with the start of the traditional period of prayer and fasting for the feast of the Assumption of Mary. The patriarch said: "This year, we will fast and pray for peace, for the end of hostilities in Gaza and South Lebanon. We pray for all the parties involved, Palestinians, Israelis and Lebanese. To all of them we wish peace and security."

After describing what is going on in Gaza and southern Lebanon as "simply inhuman", Mgr Sabbah criticized the tardiness of the international community which instead "should interfere with greater efficiency in order to put an end" to the violence, a real "vicious cycle of death" that must be broken by the strongest. The patriarch seemingly condemns the violence of the Palestinian and Lebanese militia (and suicide bombers) as well as that perpetrated by the Israeli army: "Experience in this conflict has proved that violence has only generated and even increased violence, did not give the required security and it is useless to found a new order."

Part of his appeal is addressed more directly to the Israelis: "Military power alone cannot protect. Military reprisals only increase the refusal that encircles Israel in the region. Indeed the result is the deepening of hatred and refusal."

The patriarch continued: "The only action to use for legitimate defense, that can really protect and will have as result the required security, consists simply in putting an end to the initial injustice which is the heart of this long conflict, that is, the Palestinian question. It consists in putting an end to the Israeli military occupation imposed for years upon the Palestinians, and giving them back their freedom and their independence."

Mgr Sabbah said: "As long as the oppression lasts, the oppression will give birth to violence."

At the end of his message, the Patriarch called on everyone to pray that "reason prevails upon the spirit of vengeance", so that more and more men and women may know they are "capable of living together in peace" and so that soldiers will not be transformed into "agents of killing and demolition", so that the Holy Land will be "the land of redemption and reconciliation for all".

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