Latin Patriarch appeals for pilgrims to visit Holy Land

 The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah has called on Christians from around the world to come to the Holy Land, saying that the presence of pilgrims sends a peaceful message to leaders. In his annual Easter message, he said that despite the violence he remains hopeful about peace. "We have to believe peace is possible, because when we say peace is impossible, that's the death for everyone," Sabbah said. At a news conference, Sabbah criticized both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. But he said peace would come only if Israel changed its military policies. Sabbah presides over about 400,000 Catholics in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan. He is also the region's first Palestinian patriarch, elected to the post in 1987. All his predecessors were Italian. Sabbah said that in the current round of fighting, "we are abandoned to 'human madness' that sees solutions only in bloodshed and in crushing the human being." More than 2,780 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and more than 940 on the Israeli side since September 2000. The Patriarch said leaders should remember that "all human beings are equal, whether Palestinian or Israeli." "It is high time for the leaders to come back to reason and to reconsider what they have done in order to avoid for themselves and for their people the sin of more bloodshed, and the permanence of insecurity." The Patriarch criticized the separation wall Israel is building in the West Bank. Palestinian good will, after an end to Israeli occupation, "will be the best wall and the best protection, which will give the best security for Israel," he said.

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