08/16/2006, 00.00
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We are all hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel of violence, says nuncio in Israel

More than two thousand people take part in peace mass in Nazareth. Jerusalem patriarch stresses the Pope's closeness to the victims of the conflict, urges Israel to turn to a "new path towards peace".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The mass for peace that Pope Benedict XVI called for in Lebanon and in Nazareth, Israel, was filled with "faith and ecumenical flavour", this according to Mgr Antonio Franco, apostolic delegate to Israel and Palestine who spoke to AsiaNews by phone.

He said that the celebration held in Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation brought together more than two thousand people. All the bishops of the Holy Land co-celebrated the function. In addition to Anglican, Orthodox and Coptic prelates, Muslim leaders as well as a representative of Israel's Interior Ministry attended the function.

"Everyone still had fresh memories of the children killed in the bombing in the last few weeks, right here in Nazareth," he said. "But there was also an atmosphere of joy because the mass coincided with the beginning of the cease-fire. Everyone is hoping that there might be light at the end of this tunnel of violence".

During the mass in Arabic presided by Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the apostolic delegate stressed the Pope's closeness to all the victims of the conflict. 

"During the month-long conflict," Mgr Franco told AsiaNews, "the Pope never stopped calling for peace, making at least two statements a week on the issue, urging the international community to act on behalf of peace."

In his homely, Mgr Sabbah reminded the faithful of the Pontiff's "sincere, obstinate, strong, clear and unequivocal voice" calling on all to recognise everyone's rights, "from the right of the Lebanese to sovereignty and territorial integrity, to those of Israelis to security and those of Palestinians to a free and sovereign homeland."

"These days war directly touched us and our families, homes and convents," he said. "Faced with death and destruction, we Arabs of Israel, here in Israel, say: Israelis, we want security and tranquility for you . . . we love you with the love with which God loves you, but we tell you that the death and destruction visited upon Gaza and Lebnaon is not the way towards peace . . . You make war—and you and the world says you have the right to self-defence. But instead of defending yourselves, you create more hostility and insecurity for yourselves. End the occupation that you impose on the Palestinian people. The path you have chosen so far does not lead to peace. New ways are needed to find peace and security for yourselves and the whole region."

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