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Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols Offers Prayers For Bethlehem

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The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales offered prayers today for people in Bethlehem at risk of losing their homes.

During his Midnight Mass sermon, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols spoke of 50 families in the West Bank whom he said could lose their land to Israel.

Addressing the congregation at Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop Nichols urged people to "see more clearly all those things which disfigure our world", adding: "We too live 'in a land of deep shadow'."

He went on: "That shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight.

"At this moment the people of the parish of Beit Jala prepare for their legal battle to protect their land and homes from further expropriation by Israel.

"Over 50 families face losing their land and their homes as action is taken to complete the separation/security wall across the territory of the district of Bethlehem.

"We pray for them tonight."

The Archbishop went on to speak of the importance of kindness and forgiveness, adding: "In the words of st Paul we are to be a people with 'no ambition except to do good'."

He also spoke of hope, saying: "We live in a world in which the prospects for the future, in the terms the world can offer, are distinctly shaky. Yet we find an unshakeable hope in our saviour."

In his own Christmas Day sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury will talk today of the "broken bonds and abused trust" in a British society torn apart by riots and financial speculation.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Rowan Williams will ask the congregation to learn lessons about "mutual obligation" from the events of the past year.