The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has urged Christians throughout the world to defy those who would thwart attempts to revive the fortunes of Bethlehem…
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has urged Christians throughout the world to defy those who would thwart attempts to revive the fortunes of Bethlehem, and make efforts to visit it as a place of pilgrimage and to remember the 'struggling' town in their prayers.
His words follow a Christmas homily by the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster who pleaded for the town, saying he deplored the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem and the current condition of the town of Christ.s birth.
In a letter presented to Dr Victor Batarseh, the Mayor of Bethlehem, marking the feast of the Epiphany, Dr Williams also expressed his concern for the fate of the area.
"I am aware of the severe hardship which many are suffering; the decline of tourism, the difficulties of access and movement and the struggle to sustain the economic and social life of the city. I am distressed to hear that the current situation has prompted so many families, especially Christians, to leave the city and seek security and stability elsewhere. I have raised these concerns directly with the Israeli authorities."
Dr Williams said that Christians throughout the world could play their part:
"I urge Christians worldwide to support your community, to visit you whenever possible and to pray for the people of Bethlehem that they may not be forgotten . We pray for the day when a just and lasting peace will be established in the region which will bring freedom, dignity and security to all the people of Bethlehem."
The letter was presented in Bethlehem to Dr Batarseh on behalf of Dr Williams by an Anglican delegation from the UK led by the Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Revd Brian Castle.
It comes as fresh attempts by the authorities in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to encourage visitors to come and revive the town.s ailing fortunes are being thwarted by metal turnstiles at the Israeli border terminal.