The Associated Press
March 19, 2008 - 7:03pm

Michel Sabbah, the Holy Land's top Roman Catholic clergyman, is to retire this year.

The Latin Patriach is turning 75 on Wednesday - the traditional retirement age of church officials.

Sabbah is the first Palestinian to hold his position. Throughout his tenure, he has been a vocal advocate for the Palestinian cause. At the same time, he has been an outspoken critic of violence.

A church official said Sabbah will stay on the job at least through the upcoming Easter holiday. The official stated that Sabbah is expected to be succeeded by another Palestinian church leader, Archbishop Fuad Twal.

In a pre-Christmas address last year, the Latin Patriarch said Israel's identity as a Jewish state discriminates against non-Jews.

"If there's a state of one religion, other religions are naturally discriminated against," Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah in December told reporters at the annual press conference in Jerusalem before the Christian holiday.


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