In his Christmas homily, the Archbishop of Westminster said that the key to a peaceful Middle East is peace in the Holy Land, and asked for a 'conversion of heart' of everyone involved in the conflict in Israel and Palestine. He said that although negotiation and compromise are essential to peace, it is more important for leaders of nations and communities to undergo 'a conversion of heart to trust each other'. They should 'seek peace in their hearts, in their homes, in their nations'. Speaking at his Midnight Mass homily at Westminster Cathedral a day after returning from an Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor described his 'sadness' that Christian pilgrims rarely now visit Bethlehem, the town where Christ was born. He encouraged people from England and Wales to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and in particular to visit Bethlehem and also urged Palestinian Christians to stay in the town. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor also spoke about the secularization of England, which he described as 'a profoundly needy land' where 'God is increasingly excluded from public life'. This has resulted in the nation being 'deprived of some of the greatest values of life which are reasons for meaning and reasons for hope." Our culture, he said ' is needy in the sense that we live in a culture that seeks to express itself as totally self-sufficient where only what is experienced or what can be calculated is valid; where individual freedom is held as the fundamental value to which all others must be subject.' This means that faith in God 'becomes more difficult because God no longer appears directly.' He called on Christians to show 'joy in faith' and 'happiness that God has given them ' the great gift of believing and hoping.
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