Church Times, UK
Dec 1 2006

UK plan for Bethlehem boost
by Helen Saxbee and Gerald Butt, Middle East Correspondent

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury is to take part in a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land in the week before Christmas. Dr Williams will join the
other presidents of Churches Together in England: Cardinal Cormac
Murphy-O'Connor; the Free Churches Moderator, the Revd David Coffey;
and the Primate of the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Rt Revd Nathan
Novhannisian. The group is to visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem between
20 and 23 December.

The four are to meet patriarchs in Jerusalem at the beginning of the
visit, but are also planning to spend time with local people,
including young people and children, to show solidarity with the
churches in Israel and Palestine. It is hoped that the trip will
include an ecumenical service in the Church of the Nativity in

When the four church leaders reach the Holy Land, they can expect an
enthusiastic response from the Christian community, which shares the
exhaustion and despair of the Palestinian community as a whole. The
difficulties of daily life - made worse for many by the barrier built
by Israel along the edge of the West Bank - have been compounded in
the minds of many Christians by the continuing political success of
Islamic groups in Palestine and elsewhere in the region. As a result,
the exodus of Christians from the Middle East is continuing.

Dr Mitri Raheb, at the International Centre of Bethlehem, a
Lutheran-based ecumenical institution, said he hoped that the
pastoral visit by British and Irish church leaders would focus the
minds of Christians worldwide on the difficulties faced by the
congregations in the Holy Land. Dr Raheb said that their presence
would `give a signal to many Christians, from the United Kingdom and
beyond, that it is essential, and also possible, to embark on a
pilgrimage to the Holy Land and meet with the living stones'.

In Dr Raheb's view, the media coverage of the pastoral visit might
help to shed light on the realities of life in the Holy Land:
`Bethlehem is now surrounded by a wall and turned into a big prison.
The future of the city is at stake.'

In a reference to divisions within Christianity, which also affect
Palestinian Christians, Dr Raheb said he hoped that the visit would
`send out a message in support of stronger ecumenical collaboration'.

Method acting The Nativity Story (above), released today and
premièred last Sunday at the Vatican, stars a 16-year-old girl as the
Virgin Mary, writes Rachel Harden. Reports this week say she is

The part-Maori actress Keisha Castle-Hughes, who was nominated for an
Oscar for her role in the 2002 film Whale Rider, did not attend the
première; nor did the Pope. A Vatican spokesman said that the Pope
had never intended to be present, as he was preparing for his trip
this week to Turkey.

The actress (left in picture, with Hiam Abbass, who plays Anna) is
believed to be expecting her first child in the spring. Mgr Melchor
Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, deputy to Cardinal Paul Poupard at the
Pontifical Council for Culture, which hosted the première, told The
Times that Ms Castle-Hughes was not expected to be a saint herself,
only to do her work as an actress properly.

According to its website, the film, made in the village of Matera in
Italy, has been checked by theologians and historians for