Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor,
LONDON SW1P 1QJ
As you may have read in the newsletter, we have asked Open Bethlehem supportersto contact the office of the Archbishop of Westminster (firstname.lastname@example.org) to thank him for his statement at Christmas. We have heard over the last few days that he is being pressured by the Israeli embassy to publicly apologise for this statement. This would, of course, be disastrous for us, so we are asking everyone to contact him expressing their hope that he will continue to speak bravely and frankly about the situation in Palestine, and not buckle under pressure from pro-Israeli forces.
If you could take some time to write to, or call his office, that would be greatly appreciated. If you have any suggestions on this matter, please contact me. Thank you,
16-18 Strutton Ground
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor used his midnight mass homily to urge Christians to rescue the town of Christ’s birth. The spiritual leader of Catholics in England and Wales said: (an excerpt of his homily)
….What has happened to that town since? How sad it is that Christians in Bethlehem feel compelled to leave the land of their birth for foreign lands, on account of the political situation in the Holy Land. How tragic that as a result of all the violence perpetrated there the little town of Christ’s birth is corralled, blocked in by a wall and checkpoints. Borders have been re-drawn: families have been separated and ancient landmarks have been lost to the town. Commerce and tourism have been decimated; unemployment has led to an exodus of citizens, most of them Christians.
St. Jerome calls Bethlehem “the most sacred spot in the world for us, indeed for the whole world”. Yet Bethlehem, the icon of all pilgrim sites, sees only one in ten of the pilgrims who five years ago came to pay homage to the Christ Child. How tragic that Christians, who for centuries have lived in harmony with their neighbors and who have stood resolutely for peace, are being forced out bypresent circumstances.
The people of Bethlehem are tonight celebrating the Nativity with joy. But they feel terribly alone. Recently Pope Benedict accepted, on behalf of the Catholic Church, a symbolic Bethlehem passport. He wanted to show that we are all citizens of Bethlehem, and that Bethlehem should be a free and open city. I hope that we can play our part in ensuring that it stay that way: that those of you who have not visited Bethlehem and are able to will take time this year to do so: to stay there, and to show the people of that town that they are not alone.
In the meantime, please pray for Bethlehem, that their town not become a museum, that they again have hope, that the eyes and the hearts of the world be opened to what is happening there.
The Christ Child is crying for the town of his birth.
With him, I want tonight to issue a plea. Violence is not the answer. Terror and repression are not the way of the Christ Child. To those with power, I want to say: seek peace with justice. The Holy Land conflict has inflicted a terrible wound on humanity. Bind that wound. Build bridges, not walls. Let Bethlehem be what it is meant to be: a free and open city. If you care about the human family, in God’s name, hear this plea. So much is at stake. As we sang tonight: O Little Town of Bethlehem the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…