Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Patriarch of Jerusalem Stepping Down at 75

Jerusalem, Mar. 18, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Archbishop Michel Sabbah, who steps down this week after 20 years as the Latin-rite Patriarch of Jerusalem, has issued a final appeal for peace.

In his Easter message, Patriarch Sabbah speaks of the Holy Land as a "land of Revelation, Redemption, and reconciliation" that has been troubled by "inhumane and futile violence."

"Unfortunately this land remains a land of bloodshed, ignoring its own voacation," the Palestinian prelate writes. "It is high time to learn the lessons of history and engage in the path of God; it is high time for every people and individual to accept the vocation entrusted by God to them, which is to build societies and not demolish them."

Patriarch Sabbah, a native of Nazareth, was appointed in 1988 to be the first Palestinian to head the Jerusalem patriarchate since the era of the Crusades. Having guided the Latin-rite Church through years of turmoil and controversy, he will resign on March 19 as he marks his 75th birthday.

The new Patriarch of Jerusalem will be Archbishop Fouad Twal, a seasoned Vatican diplomat who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) in September 2005 to be coadjutor archbishop.

Today there are about 75,000 Catholic faithful within the patriarchate, which includes Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Jordan and Cyprus. The Patriarch of Jerusalem is also, by virtue of his office, the grand prior of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the president of the assembly of Catholic bishops of the Holy Land, and the president of the Latin-rite bishops' conference of the Arabic region.

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