From: Catholic Communications Service

Press Release
 
URGENT NEED FOR PEACE HIGHLIGHTED BY CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ MEETING

Bishops from Europe and the Americas today (Thursday, January 15) issued a
strong statement of solidarity with the churches of the Holy Land.

At the climax of a four-day meeting, the 15 bishops said: ‘We have seen with
the devastating effect of the security wall currently being built through the land and homes of Palestinian communities. This appears to be a permanent structure, dividing families, isolating them from their farmland and their livelihoods, and even cutting off religious institutions.’

The statement, released by the bishops at a press conference in the Old City of Jerusalem, continued: ‘We had an experience of the frustration and humiliation undergone every day by Palestinians at checkpoints, which impede them from providing for their families, reaching hospital, getting to work, attending their studies and visiting their relatives.’

‘We deplore the fact that, despite visible effort, some priests, seminarians, sisters and brothers and lay personnel are being denied or having difficulties in obtaining visas and residence permits to study and work in Israel and the Palestinian territories.’

The bishops said that, despite this, they had witnessed many signs of hope during their short stay in the Holy Land

‘Most hopeful of all, however, is the vitality and commitment of the Church of Holy Land itself, including the fraternal relations between Christian leaders,’ the bishops said.

They also highlighted the ‘small but notable increase in the number of pilgrims coming to Holy Places’ and concluded: ‘We call on all our fellow believers to bear witness to the truth of the message addressed to the Christians of the Holy Land during these days: ‘You are not alone’.’

Full text of the statement follows.

NOTE: The meeting, entitled the Universal Church in Solidarity with the Church of the Holy Land, was staged with the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, presided over by the Latin Patriarch, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah.
 
The Catholic Bishops` Conference of England & Wales delegation was led by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, supported by Meeting Co-ordinator Fr. Frank Turner, of the CBCEW International Affairs Department. It also included Sister Margaret Scott and Fr Nicholas Postlethwaite, of the Conference of Religious.

Other bishops present included Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Brendan O’Brien, President of the Catholic Bishops` Conference of Canada, Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of El Salvador, President of Caritas Latin America and Caribbean region, Bishop Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin, Bishop of Chartres in France, Bishop
Reinhard Marx, President of the German Commission for Justice and Peace, Mgr. Piergiuseppe Vachelli, sub-secretary, Catholic Bishops` Conference of Italy, Bishop Joan Enric Vives of Spain, Bishop William Kenney of Scandinavia, representing European bishops’ grouping COMECE (The Commission of the Bishops` Conferences of the European Community), and Bishop Pierre Burcher of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Archbishop Kelly was also representing the European bishops` grouping CCEE the Council of European Bishops` Conferences at the meeting.

Contacts: Ollie Wilson, UK (0) 7974 951181 or John Coughlan +32 486 583250

The Universal Church in Solidarity with the Church of the Holy Land

Bethlehem and Jerusalem, 12-15 January 2004

 ‘Not walls, but bridges!’

1. We, Catholic Bishops from Europe and the Americas, came here to demonstrate the solidarity of Catholics throughout the world with the Church of the Holy Land.

For the third time in as many years, we have come in friendship for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, Christian, Jew and Muslim alike. We have seen the violence suffered by both communities: the attack against Israelis in Gaza and the collective punishment of Palestinian citizens. We express our condolences for the deaths that have occurred during our stay and affirm our opposition to all bloodshed.

We have heard of the desire for peace, justice and reconciliation among both Israelis and Palestinians. We have also observed with great regret the lack of political will not only in this region but in the international community to work for a peaceful settlement.

We therefore call upon all our political leaders to respond to the desire for peace which the people of this Holy Land have deep in their hearts.

2. ‘We labour and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God’ 1 Tm 4: 10

We have witnessed many signs of hope during our short time in the Holy Land. Not least among these are the generosity of the universal Church and the expressions of solidarity that have come from Christians in Israel and elsewhere in the world.

Most hopeful of all, however, is the vitality and commitment of the Church of the Holy Land itself, including the fraternal relations between Christian leaders.

We congratulate the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land, together with all the Christians of the Holy Land in communion with the Catholic Church, for the successful implementation of their Synod, as well as the Catholic relief organisations which have worked so hard to co-ordinate their efforts and focus on their strengths in support of all the people of the Holy Land.

3. ‘The Holy Land does not need walls, but bridges!” Pope John Paul II, 16 November 2003

We have seen the devastating effect of the wall currently being built through the land and homes of Palestinian communities. This appears to be a permanent structure, dividing families, isolating them from their farmland and their livelihoods, and cutting off religious institutions.

We have had an experience of the frustration and humiliation undergone every day by Palestinians at checkpoints, which impede them from providing for their families, reaching hospital, getting to work, attending their studies and visiting their relatives.

We deplore the fact that, despite visible efforts, some priests, seminarians, sisters, brothers, and lay personnel are being denied or are having difficulties in obtaining visas and residence permits to study and work in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

These constitute genuine impediments to the Churches’ capacity to carry out their mission at the service of the people of the Holy Land. This is especially regrettable given that the State of Israel and the Holy See have just marked ten years since the signing of their Fundamental Agreement.
 
We are also concerned about the written notices given to pilgrims by the Israeli authorities on arrival in the Holy Land, making it difficult for them to visit areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, including many of the Holy Places of the Christian faith.

4. ‘Teacher, where are you staying? … Come and see!’  Jn 1: 38-39

We have been given hope by the small but notable increase in the number of pilgrims coming to the Holy Places. We hope that our own journey will be an example and encouragement to our fellow Christians to come and see where Jesus Christ lived. To journey and to be a pilgrim is a sign of hope and solidarity to the Christians of the Holy Land, a reminder of the presence
of this living Church – the Mother Church – and a witness to peace and reconciliation in this region so afflicted by conflict. We call on all our fellow believers to bear witness to the truth of the message addressed to the Christians of the Holy Land during these days:
‘You are not alone!’

+ Brendan O’Brien
Archbishop of St John’s Newfoundland and President, Canadian Bishops’
Conference

+ Wilton D. Gregory
Bishop of Belleville and President, United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops

+ Patrick Kelly
Archbishop of Liverpool and Vice-President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of
England & Wales (Delegate, Council of European Bishops’ Conferences)

+ Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin
Bishop of Chartres, French Bishops’ Conference

+ Lucien Daloz
Archbishop Emeritus of Besançon, French Bishops’ Conference

+ Reinhard Marx
Bishop of Trier, German Bishops’ Conference

+ Joan Enric Vives
Bishop of Urgell and co-Prince of Andorra, Spanish Bishops’ Conference

+ William Kenney
Auxiliary Bishop of Stockholm, Scandinavian Bishops’ Conference and
Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE)

+ Pierre Bürcher
Auxiliary Bishop of Lausanne, Swiss Bishops’ Conference

+ Gregorio Rosa Chavez,
President, Caritas Latin America

Mgr Piergiuseppe Vachelli
Undersecretary, Italian Bishops’ Conference

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