Messages of peace as Christians celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

Messages of peace as Christians celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

Tens of thousands of Christians flocked to Bethlehem on Saturday to celebrate Christmas. Peace was a central theme in Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal’s Christmas homily delivered in Bethlehem.

“We ask for peace, stability and security for the entire Middle East,” Twal said.

Twal, the most senior Roman Catholic in the Middle East, urged “the return of calm and reconciliation in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq and in North Africa” at the midnight mass held in the place of Christ’s birth, according to Christian tradition.

In popular uprisings in Tunis and Egypt which ended decades of “secular” dictatorships, Islamist parties have taken the front stage. Egypt’s main Islamist parties emerged on Saturday as winning 65 percent of votes for party lists in the second round of the new parliament.

The UN Security Council says that Syria has killed more than 5,000 of its people in recent months, and Thursday attacks in Iraq killed 60 people, heightening sectarian tensions less than a week after US troops withdrew.

“O Child of Bethlehem, in this New Year, we place in your hands this troubled Middle East and, above all, our youth full of legitimate aspirations, who are frustrated by the economic and political situation, and in search of a better future,” Twal said.

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