Patriarch to Visit London, Tell of Mideast Plight


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ROME, JULY 24, 2009 ( Faithful in London will have the chance to hear firsthand what their Christian brothers and sisters suffer in the Holy Land: The patriarch of Jerusalem is set to visit the United Kingdom and raise awareness of the challenges being faced in the Middle East.

At the invitation of Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Fouad Twal will speak at Westminster Cathedral on Sept. 8. Six weeks later, Bishop Joseph Coutts from Pakistan will make a similar trip.

In an interview with the aid agency in Rome, Archbishop Twal said, "I look forward very much to my visit to London. It will be an opportunity to share with so many friends the sufferings and joys that we experience in the land of Christ."

The patriarch said his trip would build on Benedict XVI's plea delivered during his Holy Land pilgrimage: that Christians cease emigrating from the Middle East.

"If only the faithful are given the chance to lead a normal life, they will stay in the Holy Land," Archbishop Twal affirmed. "As long as they cannot lead a normal life, they will be tempted to leave."

The number of Christians in the Holy Land has plummeted in the last 40 years from 20% of the population to less than 1.5%.

For his part, Bishop Coutts will lead the aid organization's annual Westminster Event on Oct. 17.

The agency's U.K. director, Neville Kyrke-Smith, affirmed: "It is critical that we get the message out there about what Christians are enduring for their faith today in the Middle East and Pakistan and we are so glad that Patriarch Twal and Bishop Coutts can give us their firsthand testimonies."