BETHLEHEM - Regina Mousalam is adamant that Palestinians are not leaving and will not leave the country of their birth, the land of their ancestry and the culture that is their pride. Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and other Christian Palestinian towns and villages were built around their churches. The homes Palestinian Christians live in, the streets they walk and the extended families surrounding them keep Palestinians wedded to this hard, dry land.

Published in Holy Land Christians

BETHLEHEM - The Vatican has been increasingly concerned about the possibility the Middle East will become a kind of Disneyland for Christians, full of interesting Christian history, architecture and archeology that will attract tourists, but virtually empty of Christians. 

Published in Holy Land Christians

TORONTO - Under the headline “A slap in the face,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant has used his organization’s newspaper to condemn Pope Francis’ recent visit to the Holy Land.

Published in Canada

BETHLEHEM - As workers continue to assemble the stage on which Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in Manger Square, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the city of Jesus' birth, leading a procession of Orthodox bishops, priests and officials from the Palestinian Authority into the Church of the Nativity.

Published in A Holy Land pilgrimage

On the way out of Manger Square, down a steep drive and onto the commercial street, a woman in fashionable trekker gear with a $1,000 Canon digital SLR slung from her shoulder pulls out her phone and aims the little plastic lens at the street generally. You have seen pictures like the one she has just taken — slightly skewed vistas of a lot of pavement and distant pedestrians and colourful street signs and maybe the hood of a passing car.

The Catholic mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun, has issued a plea for "peace and justice" on the eve of the May 24-26 pilgrimage by Pope Francis to the Holy Land.

Published in International

BETHLEHEM - Come Sunday morning about 9,000 Christians who have been granted tickets will form Pope Francis' congregation on Manger Square in Bethlehem. Around, above and behind them will be as many as 800 journalists.

Published in International

BETHLEHEM, West Bank - A long line of cars trailed down the road next to the Church of the Nativity as Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas helped coordinate the placement of the electricity generator for the May 25 papal Mass.

Published in A Holy Land pilgrimage

BETHLEHEM - Just like any parish decorating the church for a special occasion, Palestinians are decorating Bethlehem in advance of Pope Francis' visit on May 25. But these decorations are also a message to the world about the plight of Palestinians.

Published in International

May 15 was Nakba Day — not exactly a holiday in the Palestinian West Bank because few people can afford to take a day off work, but a day of commemoration.

In modern, democratic culture there's almost nothing worse than protecting the status quo. it is to be on the side of privilege; to stand against the excluded. There can be no doubt that's a bad thing.

Below me the Bridgettine Sisters are chanting the office and it echoes through their guest house built into the hillside entirely out of stone, steel and tile. Outside the muezzin calls Muslims to prayer through giant loudspeakers.

Catholics sometimes forget what the Pope's job is. It's not hard to mistake the Masses, meetings, audiences, addresses, encyclicals, photo opportunities and tours of St. Peter's Square in the popemobile for the Pope's job.

Published in Guest Columns

I was in Bethlehem for one day in 2007, about this time of the year. There was an unnatural calm to the place. Streets were empty. Olive-wood carvings were piling up in the workshops in hope of a return of the tourists. But most shops weren't betting on it. Most were locked tight behind heavy metal doors.

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