Jerusalem Patriarch Sees Obstacles to Peace on Both Sides

Easter Message Addresses Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

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JERUSALEM, MARCH 23, 2005 ( Peace in the Holy Land will come, not through force, but rather through resolving the causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, says the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem in his Easter Message.

In the text published today, Patriarch Michel Sabbah said: «These days we are experiencing a time of relative tranquility and witnessing an express desire to reach peace.»

Yet, he sees problems to achieving peace, both on the Israeli side as well as the Palestinian.

The prelate criticized the Israelis for «the further expansion of the settlements rather than their being halted or abandoned, the continued siege of Palestinian cities which remain prison-cities, the political prisoners who seem to be forgotten, to say nothing of all the major questions that must be treated before a final accord can be reached.»

«On the Palestinian side, discordant voices seem to be threatening the decision to demand rights without having recourse to violence,» the patriarch added.

«The security of Israel is a priority, but so are the security and the independence of a Palestinian state. And the two are interdependent. One cannot come about without the other,» he stated in the message.

«Freedom must be the same for all, for the strong as well as for the weak,» Patriarch Sabbah continued. «The strong cannot seek, just because they are stronger, to eliminate the weak or to force them into a submission that runs contrary to the dignity of persons or nations.

«Force can impose facts; but, if it does, human dignity will seek vengeance and remain a menace and a source of insecurity for the strong. It is time to become convinced that neither party can live at the expense of the other.»

«Moreover, it is useless to seek to make peace with the region before solving the core of the conflict, which is between Palestinians and Israelis,» the patriarch stated. «Trying to make peace with the neighbors will only exacerbate the conflict in the Holy Land. This conflict must be resolved first because peace throughout the region depends on the peace of Jerusalem.»

He added: «Christ has truly risen. Let us rejoice. Yes, in the midst of all of our present trials, we are invited to rejoice and to live our lives to the full.»

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