Fasting Also Needed in Politics, Says Jerusalem Patriarch

Michel Sabbah Invites Authorities to Purify Their Intentions

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JERUSALEM, FEB. 9, 2005 ( At the start of Lent, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem has invited “those who hold power” to fast, in order to “purify their intentions and their individual or national egoisms.”

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem published an Ash Wednesday message of Patriarch Michel Sabbah that calls for conversion during the 40-day period leading up to Easter.

It is a time of fasting, a time “to submit one’s body and will to an exercise whose purpose is to free us from compulsion and slavery,” writes Patriarch Sabbah. “Through fasting, and by God’s grace that never abandons us, we want to become free, capable of living according to the spirit and doing the good we want to do.”

In his message, sent to ZENIT on Tuesday, Patriarch Sabbah says that fasting “exercises our body and soul and renews our energies toward good.”

It should be coupled with almsgiving, which “directs these energies toward our neighbor whom we love because he/she is the image of God,” he writes.

“At the present time,” he continues, “Lent (fasting and almsgiving) puts us in communion before God with the victims of the earthquakes and the tsunamis that have recently taken place on the two continents of Asia and Africa,” with “the victims of incurable diseases.” It also links us with victims of “injustices imposed by human beings on their brothers and sisters in the name of the national interest.”

“It also puts us in communion with all resistance to all oppression and to all occupation, like the one taking place in our Holy Land, an occupation that profanes and demolishes Palestinian human beings, by depriving them of their freedom, and Israeli human beings, by depriving them of their security and of their ability to do what is right,” the patriarch states.

In reference to the recent discussions between Israel and the Palestine National Authority, the patriarch acknowledged that in the midst of the conflict “we are witnessing today … a renewed effort toward justice and reason” and “a renewed involvement of the international community.”

“Fasting is also needed in politics,” he exhorts, “a fasting that allows those who hold power to purify their intentions and their individual or national egoisms.”

“A fasting that allows leaders to see and understand not only that they are mandated to serve and save but also that all human beings, in all nations, are also created and loved by God,” the Latin patriarch writes. “They are not divided into two camps, the good and the bad, the strong and the weak. All have received their dignity from God, and all are called to enjoy the same freedom and the same security.”

On Tuesday, Patriarch Sabbah received “with new hope” the news from a summit in Egypt between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Abu Mazen.

After four years of intifada and incursions in the Occupied Territories, both leaders announced a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine.

The summit is a step forward in reactivating the peace process and the implementation of the “road map,” which envisions the establishment of an independent Palestinian state coexisting with Israel, said Egyptian Hosni Mubarak.

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