.- A Catholic bishop in the Holy Land has called for prayers for peace as tension and violence increase ahead of the Palestine Authority’s request for U.N. recognition.
“The Lord told us to pray for peace. Jerusalem will attain peace through the power of God, and not merely through the acts of politicians,” said Bishop William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem and vicar of the Latin Patriarchate for Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories.
He said prayer was essential because people are yearning for peace and a better life after decades of violence, Aid to the Church in Need reports.
Many Christians have emigrated because of the problems they face.
Bishop Shomali, who comes from the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem, said it is important that the faithful remain in the region.
“The mission and calling of Christians is to remain in the Holy Land and work toward change,” he said. “We want change, but we want peaceful change.”
The bishop also called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The Palestinian leadership’s bid for United Nations-recognized statehood will begin on Sept. 19, according to news reports. It could seek statehood through the Security Council, where the United States has pledged a veto, or it could seek an upgrade of the Palestinian delegation to that of a non-member observer state, like the Holy See.
Observers the vote will provoke fear further clashes in the West Bank. On the morning of Sept. 15, three cars were set alight in the town of Beit Furik, just outside Nablus.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib reported an escalation in Israeli settlers’ attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank. In the last two weeks there have been several incidents, including attacks on three mosques.
Despite the tensions, Bishop Shomali stressed the importance of visitors to Jerusalem. He encouraged Christians to visit the region. Pilgrimage to the region can help Christians renew their own lives and attain deeper insights into Scripture.
“The Holy Land needs you, and you need the Holy Land,” he said.