The Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, has urged Christian pilgrims to continue coming to the Holy Land. He made the plea while delivering his annual Easter message. Archbishop Sabbah, the Vatican's highest clergyman in the Holy Land, says Christian pilgrims have a vital role to play in helping promote peace in the Middle East.
He told a news conference at his offices in Jerusalem's walled Old City that Christians must not be deterred by more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has taken more than 3,000 lives.
He says the presence of pilgrims in the Holy Land can help stop the bloodshed.
"Because the pilgrim, when he comes just to pray on the holy places, gives a message to all," the Archbishop said. "He tells the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians, that these places are holy. So the presence of the pilgrims is a way, a step towards reconciliation. Therefore they must come, they must not be afraid."
During his address, Archbishop Sabbah also repeated his call for Israel to abandon its building of a security barrier in, and around, the West Bank. Israel says the project is necessary to stop Palestinian terror attacks. But Archbishop Sabbah said the barrier would only bring more insecurity by increasing the spiritual divide between Israelis and Palestinians.
Archbishop Sabbah added that, despite the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he would never give up the hope that peace would come to the Holy Land. He says he believes one day, either the current Israeli and Palestinian leaders will be inspired to make peace or there will be new leaders with the courage to make reconciliation possible.