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Catholic World News News Feature

Visit the Holy Land, Melkite prelate pleads October 03, 2007

A Melkite Catholic archbishop has urged Christians of the Western world to "visit the living stones of the Holy Land, the Christians who live there," the Fides news service reports. Speaking at Westminster cathedral in London, on the 60th anniversary of the Catholic relief organization Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Elias Chacour recalled that Jesus was born in Galilee and that Christians in the Holy Land are the direct descendants of "the first men and women who heard the Good News."

"My forefathers were the first to listen to Jesus and be fascinated by what He had to say," Archbishop Chacour said. "We have kept the faith for over 2000 years." Acknowledging that violence and bloodshed have cast a shadow across the Holy Land, the archbishop reminded his listeners that "there is also the news of the empty tomb, where Jesus the Christ was laid and is risen."

"It is important to visit the holy places, but it is even more important to visit the living stones, the Christians living in the Holy Land today," the archbishop continued. "Come and visit us, make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We will make you welcome. Come and see."

Archishop Chacour recalled that Christians in the Holy Land are dwindling in numbers as many continue to emigrate, to escape the danger and the tragic economic situation: “In 1948, 60% of the people in Bethlehem were Christians," he pointed out. "Today we are less than 10%. In 1948 there were more than 45,000 Christians in Jerusalem. Today there are only about 7,000."

The archbishop called on Christians around the world to help his people-- but not by opposing Jews or Muslims: "There as already been too much violence in Palestine," he said.

Archbishop Chacour is deeply committed to promoting peace in the Holy Land. Three times a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, he is, an Arab nationalized as an Israeli citizen, a well known figure for his activity to promote dialogue and in the field of education. He opened the first mixed university for Jewish and Palestinian students, and in the village of Ibillin in Galilee, where he was parish priest for many years, he opened Mar Elias School which has 4,000 pupils.

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