Patriarch Sees Glimmer of Hope After Sept. 11

Alliance for Life Is Possible, Says Gregory III

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2001 ( Following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, “the situation has changed” and it is possible “to create a vast alliance for life and peace,” a Greek-Melkite patriarch says.

The opinion of Patriarch Gregory III Laham of Antioch is important because his Church is highly integrated in the Middle East. He was also patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem for 26 years.

“Now the situation is favorable for peace, because Tony Blair and George W. Bush are in favor of the creation of the Palestinian state,” said the 68-year-old Eastern Catholic leader.

According to the patriarch of this Arab-rite Church of 1.5 million faithful, “more development and work” must be planned “to guarantee peace. Only in this way can fundamentalism, radicalism and terrorism be combated.”

“We must be conscious of the fact that the anger of fundamentalists is also directed against moderate Arab leaders,” Gregory III added.

The patriarch addressed the press Tuesday during a break in the sessions of the Synod of Bishops. He recalled that while he was speaking “a peace march was being held in Palestine with the leaders of the 13 Christian Churches.”

The initiative was an act of prayer and peace, following Israel´s military occupation of several West Bank cities, in reprisal for the assassination of far-right Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. The Greek-Melkite leader, who was born in Damascus and whose see is in that city, said that three Christians died in the recent clashes.

With regard to Israel´s position, Gregory III said that “it is not about fighting a war. Following the attacks on the Twin Towers, the situation has changed and it is possible to create a vast alliance for life and peace.”

Regarding relations with the Muslim world, the patriarch said, “Islam is not compact; it differs from one place to another.” Regarding Syria, he added: “Relations between Muslims and Christians have improved since the attacks on the United States. Dialogue is accelerating in response to terrorism.”

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