The Catholic Bishops of Ireland have sent the following Christmas message to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, HB Michel Sabbah, in support of Christians in the Holy Land: At this time of year our thoughts and prayers turn to the Holy Land and especially to Bethlehem, a place of profound significance for people across the world as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. We wish to express our solidarity with you and the Christians of the Holy Land, who for the sixth consecutive year must suffer fear and despair as a result of the present political situation. We also deplore the resulting violence perpetrated by all sides in this ongoing conflict. We acknowledge and we express our concern that as a result of this appalling situation an increasing number of Christians feel compelled to leave the land of their birth to make their home in foreign lands. In addition, we deplore the consequences of the current programme of wall and fence building, which is set to continue, which further deepens the sense of separation between the different peoples in the Holy Land. At this time we encourage Christians everywhere to visit the Holy Land and especially Bethlehem despite the ongoing difficulties in the region. This Christmas as we pray for justice and peace for all peoples in the land of Our Lord's birth, may we reassure you of our prayerful support. Our hope is expressed in Pope Benedict XVI's letter for World Day of Peace, wherein he states: "Peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person regardless of his or her particular culture or identity." Bishops also invite and encourage Irish people living at home and abroad to email Christmas wishes and prayers for peace to the people of the Holy Land. By logging onto www.paxchristi.net messages can be sent to Bethlehem, which will then be distributed in a variety of spiritual and educational contexts.
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