Holy Land: Latin Patriarch makes first visit to Gaza

 Archbishop Fouad Twal, the new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, led prayers yesterday at a Gaza City church in his first trip to the isolated territory's Christian community.

During the Mass Archbishop Twal said he had come to Gaza to "pray for justice and peace" ahead of Christmas later this week. He also said he hoped Israel would allow Gaza's Christians to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas services.

Earlier last week Archbishop Twal, said the seminary in the patriarchate of the Holy Land "is rich in vocations but poor in resources," and that "expansion is needed so that the young people who knock on its door are not turned away."

In statements to L'Osservatore Romano, the archbishop said: "The seminary is the future of our diocese in the Holy Land. Young people who knock on its door come from all over Jordan, but unfortunately because of a lack of space and funds, we are obliged to send some of them back to their homes. And the operating expenses are constantly growing. Nevertheless, this does not prevent the formation of clergy who are well-educated and conscious of their own pastoral and spiritual mission at the service of the Christians community."

Archbishop Twal also pointed out that the vocations to the priesthood "are all coming from our schools, and therefore they also deserve greater attention and sacrifice."

"Through our schools," he said, "we can help families to make their young people rich in faith and capable, proud of their roots, helping the new generations contribute to the creation of a society in which all people, including minorities, can participate in the common good." In this teaching environment, he added, Christian and Muslim students "have the chance to work and grow together, to establish true relationships that can open unexpected possibilities for the future."

Source: CIS/OR