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Jerusalem patriarch: Settlement construction 'hampers' peace
Published Wednesday 18/12/2013 (updated) 20/12/2013 13:55
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Fuad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, leads a mass in the
West Bank town of Bethlehem, on Dec. 15, 2013
(AFP Musa al-Shaer)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Mideast peace efforts are being "hampered" by Israeli settlement construction, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem said Wednesday in his traditional Christmas message.

"The Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in late July, after three years of interruption, but the efforts are hampered by the continuous building of Israeli settlements," said Fuad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land.

"As long as this problem is not resolved, the people of our region will suffer," he said.

Twal stressed that, "while the world's attention has shifted from the situation in the Holy Land to the tragedy in Syria, it must be stated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains crucial to the region and is a major obstacle in the development of our society and stability in the Middle East."

Shifting to the Syrian conflict, he called to "immediately establish" a "sustainable" ceasefire and to "prevent any entry of outside weapons."

"As the Syrian problem cannot be resolved by the force of arms, we call on all political leaders to assume the responsibility for finding a mutually acceptable political solution that will end the senseless violence and uphold respect for the dignity of people," he said.

Twal noted that instability in the Middle East "affects everyone, but especially our faithful who are tempted to emigrate."

Referring to Pope Francis, set to visit the Holy Land in May 2014 in a trip yet to be officially announced, Twal said: "He cares about the Holy Land and the Middle East."

Both Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmud Abbas, have invited the pope to visit the Holy Land.

Twal said Israel "wants to introduce changes" as part of negotiations with the Holy See on the legal and financial status of church property, which could include an end to tax exemptions.

"Paying a little more or a little less is not the core of the issue," he said.

"What is the important thing is not to 'touch' east Jerusalem, as it is still on the negotiating table. We do not want these agreements to have a political implication that changes the status of east Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967."

The patriarch, who will celebrate Christmas Eve midnight mass in Bethlehem on Tuesday, condemned all "forms of religious fundamentalism," noting an "increase in acts of vandalism carried out by extremists that affected some twenty holy places or places of worship" under his care this year.

Twal is responsible for the tens of thousands of Catholics living in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus.
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1 ) some one / some where
18/12/2013 23:56
all i can say he is a Roman Catholic cleric and better keep his mouth shut on politic he has no right to say a word do your job and that is all

2 ) Tibi / Tubas
19/12/2013 05:09
The Jerusalem patriarch's comments "hamper peace" too, and besides Palestinians are never going to allow peace, either with, or without, "Settlement construction".

3 ) Mel / USA
19/12/2013 17:30
Sheesh kebaabs! Apart from the nearly 7O yrs-old UK/USG-patroned occupation &war crimes in PLURALISTIC,multi-cultural Palestine by Zionism,the only thing"hampering"legitimate,equitable 2-state peace is diluted diplo-claptrap from a cleric at Christmas! The only goal of Zionism is to kill/expel ALL non-Jews(except for cheap,passive,labor)&turn The Holy Land,into a Jewish-only colony.That means Twal will have to wear a neck-iron,on top of his 'papal'collar & only speak when permitted by Jews!Pff!

4 ) gabi / australia
20/12/2013 02:45
# 1 - "Roman Catholics clerics" have every right to speak up against injustice wherever it occurs - they follow Jesus Christ, don't they? It IS their job . . .

5 ) Rene / US
20/12/2013 11:33
Patriarch Twal has as much a right to speak as does anyone. His Church generally does not speak publically on political issues but publically speaks everyday of the world on moral issues; issues of justice which is a moral issue. But his Church does speak privately to religious and state leaders and the Patriarch knows where his Church stands on these issues.
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