“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Cardinal Tauran, top official of the Holy See, addresses Western Christians on the role of C

On the occasion of the Investiture of Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Knights and Ladies were addressed by Cardinal Tauran. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, formerly the top foreign-policy official of the Holy See, and currently the Vatican archivist and librarian, spoke eloquently about the Christians of the Holy Land, and the policies of the Holy See toward the situation in the Holy Land. Below is a full account of his remarks.

On the occasion of the Investiture of Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Knights and Ladies were addressed by Cardinal Tauran.  Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, formerly the top foreign-policy official of the Holy See, and currently the Vatican archivist and librarian, spoke eloquently about the Christians of the Holy Land, and the policies of the Holy See toward the situation in the Holy Land.  Below is a full account of his remarks.

I suspect that this evening you may be wondering why the Popes and the diplomacy of the Holy See have been so much involved in the problems in the Holy Land and in their solutions.  The purpose of my remarks is to help answer such a question.

At the time of the war in Lebanon or of the military operations in the Gulf, the Pope and his co-workers intervened or continue to intervene as counselors or as reconcilers.  In the case of the Holy Land, however, they consider themselves directly involved, because it is a region of the world:

* That enjoys a special relation with God.  Since it is the land of the biblical revelation of God, it is rightly called the “Holy land”;

* That should be a model of oliving together for the faithful of the three monotheistic religions, thus revealing that religions are factors of peace;

* Where a terrible international injustice is taking place:  for more than sixty years the Palestinian people are deprived of their land;

* That is the victim of an infernal cycle of armed violence, interrupting, if not impeding the normal life of two peoples called to live together on account of geography and history;

* Where the Christian minority is more and more tempted to emigrate;

* Where Jerusalem, the source and summit of the sacred character of this place, is located.  Jerusalem is “the homeland of the hearts of all the spiritual descendents of Abraham… a symbol of coming together, of union, and of universal peace for the human family… (but which, unfortunately) continues to be the cause of daily conflict, violence and partisan reprisals… (However) the religious identity of the City and particularly the common tradition of monotheistic faith can pave the way to promote harmony among all those who in different ways consider the Holy City as their own” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Redemptionis anno, April 20, 1984).

I do not need to explain in detail to the members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre how this Holy Land is torn and divided, and for what reasons.  You and I both know that there have been a series of concrete initiatives in favor of peace, from the 1991 Madrid Conference up to the “Road Map” of 2003.  Nevertheless, today there is a disturbing halt to the peace process already begun – a process that has been saved many times from collapse.  And today, yet another element of division has been added:  the construction of a wall between the Israeli and Palestinian people.  Its construction certainly shatters any hope for the creation of a Palestinian state that would coexist with Israel.  The result is that Palestinian society is bloodthirsty and Israel lives with acts of terrorism.

Let’s not deceive ourselves:  this Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the mother of all crises in the Middle East.  The blossoming of peace could transform the entire region:

* In freeing energies and resources for economic development;

* In eliminating all recourse to use of means of violent extremes, aggravated by the despair of the underprivildged;

* In favoring a peaceful dialogue among religions, thus stopping the emigration of Christians.

Peace is, and always will be, a viable option.  For this reason, we cannot remain indifferent on the question of the Middle East – the region of the world where the most money is invested in weapons.

It is imperative that the internationsl community unite itself in order to reverse the logic of war by re-focusing the conflict back on its original, national and territorial dimension, where the resolutions of international law can once again prevail.

Before such a situation, the Holy See has adopted some lines of reflection and action which I would like to illustrate briefly for you.

For the Holy See, freedom, security and justice are the three foundations necessary for establishing and insuring peaceful relations among peoples.  A peace that will never be perceived as just and equitable by all those concerned will never endure; it will only give rise to frustration and will always degenerate.  That’s why the Holy See has always called attention to certain basic imperatives:

* Respect for the human person and his or her fundamental rights, the first of which is the right to life;

* The search for peace through peaceful means, especially through those means offered by international law;

* Respect for the cultural and religious identity of each people;

* Freedom of conscience and religion;

* The necessity for an inter-religious dialogue in the heart of these countries, in order to avoid all that could be called a “holy war.”

The Holy See calls for all of this because it is convinced that:

* Each person has the same fundamental dignity and the same fundamental rights;

* Each people has the right to its land, in sovereignty and freedom;

* The principles of international law must be applied in the same way in all circumstances in order to avoid the perverse logic of “two weights and two measures”.

All of this is to underline the fact that one cannot defend his own legitimate rights in trampling upon those of others.

It will come as no surprise, then, that the Holy See has never accepted the annexation of territories by force and that it has always invited all parties to the meeting-table, dialogue and negotiation, even with the help of the international community.

This strategy has inspired certain concrete steps on the part of the Holy See:

* The pilgrimages to the Holy Land of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II;

* Constant contact with the Heads of State or the governments involved in the Middle East dossier;

* The signing of a Fundamental Agreement with the State of Israel (December 30, 1993) and of a Base Accord with the Palestinian Authority (February 15, 2000);

* The elaboration of a special Statute internationally guaranteed that will safeguard the unique and sacred character of the old city of Jerusalem that contains the Holy Place of the three monotheistic religions.

In doing this, the Holy See has no other ambition than to support the efforts of all those who work in favor of a compromise to which, one day, the parties directly involved will arrive concerning:

* The borders of the future Palestinian state (and thus the future of the Jewish settlements)

* The question of the Palestinian refugees;

* The status of the Holy Places.

Without these, the peace process that is so often invoked will only be a dream, because its main goal, let’s not forget, is an agreement which will seal the creation of a Palestinian State that can live in peace with its neighbor, Israel.

You will not be surprised, then, if I add a specific concern of the Holy See, in light of its being a subject of international law and on account of its moral and religious character.  This is the Holy See’s defense of freedom of cult and of religion.

This concern led the Holy See to stipulate two bilateral Agreements with the State of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as I have already mentioned.  The destiny of the Christians of the Holy Land has changed will-nilly as a result of the risks of regional and international politics which have oftentimes affeceted the ethnic and religious composition of the populations.  In other words, in the course of the centuries, the desinty of the Christians has been linked to the interests of European power.  During the de-colonization process of the last century, the Christians felt themselves abandoned in the face of:

* The Muslim majority;

* A new State created for the Jewish population;

* The Palestinians in search of a land.

For the Holy See, however, to safeguard the presence of the Christians in the Holy Land does not mean to protect them by enclosing them in a ghetto or in small “pure” Christian enclaves.  For a Christian, bridges are always preferable to wall!  The survival of our communities can only be conceived in symbiosis with Judaism and Islam.  This living-together of the faithful of different religions can become, in turn, a powerful factor in peace-building.  As Pople John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter Novo millenio ineunte:  “The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is:  a name of peace and a summons to peace” (N. 55).

Allow me, then, to thank you in the name of the entire to Church for everything you do, spiritually and materially, for our brothers and sisters who are called to live as Christians in this Holy Land where violence and force seem to dictate all rules of behavior.

With them and for them, we must repeat that we will never accept the fact that injustice and violence are daily occurrences;

With them and for them, we must remind everyone that international law is the best instrument with which to find solutions worthy of the human person;

With our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and for them, we must never allow ourselves to say that the Holy Places are simply museums; they are enshrined in the midst of a Christian community that prays, lives and works there; in the midst of thriving communities!

If, as a result of a slow and continuous exodus, these Christian communities eventually disappear, then Jerusalem will resemble the Coliseum of Rome.  If we are here this evening, it is in the hopes of avoiding such a tragic outcome!

Thank you for your presence!

Thank you for your attention!

2016-10-24T07:31:27+00:00 October 30th, 2004|Categories: News|