(from our correspondent in Bethlehem) “The entire Middle East thirsts for mercy, Israelis, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We all need peace. Please, help us!”. The parish priest of the Latin Parish of the Annunciation in Beit Jala, Fr. Faysal Hijazeen, made this appeal to the Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination (HLC) who, as a delegation, attended the community Mass yesterday. Lack of work, the Israeli military occupation, and instability are among the root causes of the emigration of Christians, a problem particularly felt by the local Church that is experiencing a “slow but steady decrease” in the number of her faithful. “Only a guarantee for a better future can make them stay”, the priest said. In response to this, Mgr. Declan Lang, HLC moderator, said in his homily to the faithful crowding the Church: “We are here to pray for you. And we commit ourselves, upon returning home, to do all we can so that you can be freer”. Even Mgr. Peter Burcher, Bishop of Reijkavik and representative of the Bishops’ Conference of the Nordic Countries, reiterated the commitment: “We have come to Bethlehem not as the Magi but as shepherds. And once back, we will tell what we have heard and seen. Thank you for the witness of your faith”. “Please, pray for our Western societies – the two bishops asked the faithful –, for they, too, have to face extremely difficult challenges. Your faith supports us”.