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A Catholic friend of Ekklesia, Colleen Williams, has sent us a petition which now has over 2,000 signatures, encouraging the Pope to visit Gaza during his trip to the Holy Land (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth) in May.
In a post to InsideCatholic.com Deal Hudson said:
"Adding Gaza to the papal visit to the Holy Land would indeed send a message to all concerned, including Hamas, which some Christians fear was strengthened by the three-week Israeli offensive. Benedict XVI could visit Holy Family Parish in Gaza City, where Msgr. Manuel Musallam and his parishioners lived through the bombing that began on Dec. 28 and the ground invasion a week later on Jan. 3, 2009. Msgr. Musallam and his parish minister to the 200 Catholics remaining in Gaza (there are approximately another 3,000 Christians, most of whom are Greek Orthodox.)
"The visit of Benedict XVI will be viewed by the Christians living in the Holy Land through the lens of 1417 deaths in Gaza, including 313 children, during the 22-day Israeli campaign. With the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, Christians in Bethlehem expressed fear that their city could become another Gaza. 'We already live surrounded by walls and check points. Why shouldn’t we think that what happened in Gaza could happen to us?' said a young woman in her mid-twenties who comes from one of the oldest, and most prominent, Christian families in Bethlehem.
"Palestinian Christians will be deeply disappointed and demoralized if Benedict XVI simply repeats the itinerary of John Paul II. 'There will be bad consequences for the Church if he does this,' Abu Zuluf told me. He did not explain this comment, but when I asked an American priest who had lived near Bethlehem for over a decade he related it to a comment he heard from a Christian woman in Bethlehem. She said to him, 'Tell the Holy Father not to lose his dignity when he comes here.'"
You can sign the petition here: