The top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land planted an olive tree Sunday on the planned route of Israel's security fence in a West Bank village and prayed for the wall's removal, saying it is serves no purpose.
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, visited the barrier Israel says it needs to keep Palestinian attackers out of their country.
"This position and the confiscation of lands have no reason at all. [The wall] doesn't benefit the security of either Israel or anybody else. Our prayers are for the removal of this physical wall currently under construction and the return of our lands and your lands to you," Sabbah told his audience, a group of some 1,000 protesters and believers who traveled with him to the planned route of the wall.
Sabbah, the first Palestinian to hold the top Roman Catholic position in the Holy Land, has been the patriarch since 1988 and has often had testy relations with Israel. He said last Christmas that the security fence has turned Bethlehem into a "prison."
"We share your concerns, " Sabbah said Sunday to the people of Abud, but urged them to keep their protests peaceful.
"Our hearts are filled with love, and no hatred for anybody, We want life for ourselves," he said. "This peace will be possible regardless of the obstacles put between the people."
IDF soldiers stood on the other side of the barbed wire and removed one of the protesters from the scene, averting a clash, witnesses said.