JERUSALEM, MARCH 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Latin-rite patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custos of the Holy Land sent a message to the presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide with the lament that “a wall isolates Bethlehem.”
The text, signed by Patriarch Michel Sabbah and Franciscan Father Giovanni Battistelli, is addressed to representatives of the episcopates, and makes the following appeal: “Please, do whatever you can: through your own government, with the Israeli Embassy in your country, with the Israeli government itself.”
“The Israeli military authorities have taken the decision to separate the Palestinian Territories from Israel by a long wall passing through the whole country, ” explains the message dated Feb. 24.
“Because of this Israeli decision, 60 Christian families, near Rachel’s Tomb, at the entrance of Bethlehem, are being encircled, isolated and deprived of all services, and have only a small entry, through an 8-meter-high wall, that will also isolate the city of Bethlehem from Jerusalem and the other territories,” the message continues.
“We address this urgent appeal also to all the Christians in the world,” the Catholic leaders say. “Please do something, before it is too late, to leave Bethlehem a city where one can go, pray and live in peace; convince the Israeli authorities to stop this measure of building the wall at the entrance of the very holy city of Christmas, the city of Bethlehem!”
It concludes: “The inhabitants of Bethlehem and particularly the Christians, seeing themselves closed in, threatened by serious hardship to the point where some of them may feel constrained to leave the country, appeal to you! This is an SOS cry!”