Custody Makes Appeal for Liturgical Celebrations in Bethlehem

Calls for «Climate of Serenity and Good Will»

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank, DEC. 17, 2002 ( The Custody of the Holy Land, of the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor, made an appeal in favor of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem.

The Franciscans in a message appealed to Palestinians and Israelis «to express and maintain a commitment to enabling the Christmas and Epiphany observances to take place in a climate of serenity and good will.»

The present Israeli occupation of Bethlehem began Nov. 22, a few hours after a Palestinian, a native of Bethlehem, carried out a massacre attack in a bus in nearby Jerusalem.

The Franciscans said Monday that in «view of the publicized appeals of the Holy Father, we are confident that all the parties understand and appreciate the transcendent importance of Christmas for Christian believers in Bethlehem and throughout the world, as well as the special resonance of this celebration of the Birth of the Prince of Peace for people everywhere.»

«It is certainly our own sacred duty to carry out the specifically religious observances in any and all circumstances as we did on the occasion of the feast of St. Catherine, on the 23rd and 24th of November,» the statement continues.

The Franciscans said that «a peaceful Christmas at Bethlehem should act as a quietly powerful testimony that peace is possible, and as an inspiring reminder that, with good will on all sides, it can surely be achieved.»

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