Crowds Pack Bethlehem To Hear Message Of Peace

(AFP)

The Middle East's senior Catholic cleric called for peace and reconciliation in a traditional Christmas Eve midnight mass before thousands in the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

""During this Christmas season, may the sound of the bells of our churches drown the noise of weapons in our wounded Middle East,"" Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal told an audience that included Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Pilgrims from around the world gathered in St. Catherine's Church on Bethlehem's Manger Square to hear the traditional address in the city where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.

As peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians remain stalled, Twal offered a vision of a better, more peaceful future.

""Our hope for Christmas is that Jerusalem not only becomes the capital of two nations, but also a model for the world, of harmony and coexistence of the three monotheistic religions.""

He also drew attention to the plight of Iraqi Christians, after a bloody October attack on a Baghdad church.
AFP