Bethlehem: The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem called on Tuesday for a "just and equitable solution" to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for reconciliation in the Middle East.
Monsignor Fuad Twal issued his plea in a homily he is to deliver at Christmas Eve midnight mass in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, a copy of which was obtained by a news agency.
The service will be attended by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and other dignitaries.
Addressing Abbas, he said "we pray for you and for your mission in finding a just and equitable solution to the present conflict, for Palestinian unity, for the peace and prosperity of your country. We ask God to grant you wisdom and courage."
"In the Holy Land, we are living a conflict that does not seem to have a solution in the short term and which weighs heavily" on its inhabitants," said Twal, who its senior Roman Catholic prelate.
"This painful reality raises numerous questions concerning our future in this country and causes us much worry," added the 73-year-old patriarch.
But "the answer lies neither in emigration nor in closing in on ourselves. It consists in staying here and in living and dying here," he added, echoing Pope Francis`s concerns of a massive exodus of Christians from the Middle East.
"From this Holy Place, we remember all the adversities in our world: from civil wars in Africa to the typhoon in the Philippines, the difficult situation in Egypt and in Iraq, the tragedy playing out in Syria/
He also spoke of "our own problems here: the prisoners and their families who hope for their release, the poor who have lost their land and their homes demolished, families waiting to be reunited, those out of work and all who suffer from the economic crisis."
In prayer, he said, "O Holy Child, God of goodness and mercy, look with kindness on the Holy Land and on our people who live in Palestine, in Israel, in Jordan and all in the Middle East. Grant them the gift of reconciliation so that they may all be brothers - sons of one God."