From the Holy Land, Bishops Call for Peace
"Security for Israel Is Linked to Justice for Palestinians"


JERUSALEM, JAN. 20, 2006 (Zenith.Org).- Here is the communiqué issued Thursday at the conclusion of the meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land and the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

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A call for peace with justice for all people and the three faiths of the Holy Land was issued by Catholic bishops today. Bishops of the Coordination of Bishops' Conferences in Support of the Holy Land made this call at the conclusion of a pastoral visit, hosted by the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land. The Coordination is an expression of the Universal Church's support of the local Church.

As Catholic bishops we came to the Holy Land to be in communion and solidarity with the people and the bishops of the Mother Church as we walk with them on the path to peace, justice and reconciliation.

We are deeply grateful to the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land for hosting our visit. We came as pilgrims in prayer, praying for the welfare of the Church and all peoples in the Holy Land.

This visit was the sixth for the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land. The Coordination represents the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, the Commission of Bishops Conferences of the European Union, and Catholic Bishops' conferences from Austria, Canada, England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America.

Once again we witnessed the vibrant faith of the Church at worship and in service to the people through many Church institutions. We took part in a children's parade and Christmas celebration. Many schoolchildren had traveled long hours through security checkpoints to come to Bethlehem for the first time.

We met with youth in Ramallah and learned of their work. We also celebrated Mass and visited with Hebrew-speaking Catholics and with parishes in Aboud, Nablus, Ramallah, Taybeh, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. We prayed together and listened to the testimonies of local people and bishops who shared the struggles of the Church in a difficult social and political reality.

As pastors we again call upon the faithful in our nations to remember the Church in the Holy Land in prayer, to come here on pilgrimage, to support generously the Church's institutions here, and to promote initiatives to bring peace and justice to all the peoples of the Land. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the Church's mission of peace in his address to the diplomatic corps earlier this month.

We echo the Holy Father's admonition regarding the Holy Land: "There the state of Israel has to be able to exist peacefully in conformity with the norms of international law; there equally, the Palestinian people has to be able to develop serenely in its own democratic institutions for a free and prosperous future."

Our pastoral concerns for the local Church lead us to share the fears and sufferings as well as the joys and hopes of the people. We recognize the legitimate right for Israel to take appropriate security measures, but all such measures should protect the dignity, human rights, lands and water of the Palestinian people. We have witnessed the hardship and poverty suffered by Palestinians as a direct result of checkpoints and the wall that impair economic development and freedom of movement. Security for Israel is linked to justice for Palestinians.

We do not wield political power, but we issue a moral call to public authorities to work for a just peace. Borrowing the image used by Pope John Paul II, together we must build bridges and not walls. We must work for a just peace that recognizes the human rights of all: security for Israel; freedom for the Palestinians; two viable states and three faiths living side by side in peace.

We will encourage our respective communities and governments to help create a just resolution of the conflict so that each individual across the Holy Land can live in dignity and fulfill his or her human potential. For the first time our Coordination visited the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. We met with King Abdullah II of Jordan. We discussed the importance of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, the hope for a just peace and his invitation to work together. We celebrated the Eucharist with a parish in Madaba, visited holy sites in Jordan, and learned of the many ways that the Catholic Church serves both Muslims and Christians in Jordan, particularly in education and health care.

The vitality of the local Catholic Church in Jordan testifies to the importance of security, stability and respect for human rights and religious freedom. Our pilgrimage took us to the top of Mount Nebo, where Moses viewed the Promised Land, a land for which we pray for the promise of peace. From there we visited the baptismal site of Jesus at Bethany beyond the Jordan, where we were inspired by the presence of thousands of Orthodox pilgrims.

Our prayer is that the waters of justice will flow throughout this Land. The difficult situation in the Holy Land does not lead us to optimism but our faith and our encounters with young people lead us to hope in a new beginning. We pray for the flourishing of the Mother Church and for the flowering of peace with justice for all peoples and the three faiths of this Land we call Holy.