Pope Gets Bethlehem Passport
- POPE BENEDICT FIRST NEW CITIZEN OF BETHLEHEM
3 December 2005
Friends of SabeelNorth America
Voice of the Palestinian Christians
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI accepted a Bethlehem passport from the
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today (Saturday 3rd December). His
Holiness becomes the first new citizen of Bethlehem following the
launch of `Open Bethlehem', an international campaign to save the city.
Bethlehem faces a state of emergency following the completion of an 8
metre high illegal cement wall at the entrance to the city that
separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem and other Palestinian towns. With
the Israeli wall and other closures, including militarised fences and
illegal Jewish settlements, Bethlehem has been reduced to its urban
core: a modern-day ghetto town.
In issuing a passport, Bethlehem is granting citizenship to those who
"uphold the values of a just and open society (and) remain a true
friend of Bethlehem, through its imprisonment", according to the
Leila Sansour- the chief executive of Open Bethlehem is currently in
London. She says: "We are appealing to the Pope as well as all
citizens of the world to help us uphold the message that was born in
our city. Bethlehem- a name that resonates with millions of people
around the world with a message of peace and hope for mankind is today
an open-air prison. Over 400 entire Christian families have emigrated
from the city in the last four years. We cannot allow the depopulation
of Bethlehem and the erosion of a 2000 year-old heritage that anchors
Christianity in the Middle East".
The Palestinian delegation included the Palestinian Minister of
Tourism Ziad Al Bandak, a native of Bethlehem, who stressed that new
developments on the ground are damaging to an already fragile tourist
industry as the critical Christmas season approaches.
Notes for editors:
Open Bethlehem was launched by the Mayor of Bethlehem on 9
November, declaring Bethlehem an open city and announcing the issue of
a Bethlehem passport.
Open Bethlehem is a city initiative that aims to promote
Bethlehem as a prime destination for tourists, bold initiatives and
investment. The core of its message is that Bethlehem is a city of
openness and diversity, with a centuries-old tradition of welcoming
travellers, refugees and pilgrims from across the world.
For more information and photographs please contact:
Peter Bourne Washington, 202-462-7266
Patrick Orr: (44) 207 2225479 M: (44) 7909534430
Charlotte Carson: (44)7768305897 M.
Carol Dabdoub T. (972) 2 2741241 ext. 2470 M. (972) 545439841
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