The head clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem chose Sunday – the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings – for his first-ever pastoral visit to San Francisco, during which he delivered a sermon in both Arabic and English.

Around 700 people gathered at the St. Thomas More church Sunday to hear Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal’s bilingual sermon, which focused on themes of peace and reconciliation.

The service lasted from 12:30 to approximately 2:30 p.m., and the multicultural congregation – which included members of the Arabic, Filipino, Brazilian, Burmese and Irish-American communities – was treated to a sermon that did not in any way shy from politics.

He implored parishioners to join him in a mission of establishing peace in the Holy Land and all over the world, so that the violence of 9/11 would never be repeated. He said, “To prepare a future of peace, we have to start with young people.”

To that end, he told the congregation about the American University of Madaba, a new university being established by the church in the Jordanian city of Madaba – the city of Twal’s birth. He said that young people of various faiths praying and studying together would do more to encourage peace than anything an official could ever say.

The sermon also touched on the theme of Israeli – Palestinian relations, and on a two-state solution to the troubles there.

He elaborated on that theme in a media briefing after the ceremony, saying that east Jerusalem will likely become the new capital of a Palestinian state, with the rest of the city belonging to Israel.

He lamented the sad lack of trust on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli divide, and reiterated his wish of peace for all inhabitants of the region. “When we say we are for justice for Palestine, it doesn’t mean we are against Israel.”

Twal described Jerusalem as being a “great mystery,” which gathers people of all faiths to pray together, yet at the same time divides them now more than ever.

After the ceremony, SF resident Mary O’Brien summed up the congregation’s reaction to the visit: “Everybody’s thrilled that he came. It’s a great unifying force to have him visit our city.”

The Patriarch will remain in the Bay Area until Tuesday. Additional public events scheduled during his stay can be found on the St. Thomas website.

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