WASHINGTON (October 21, 1999) -- In a strongly worded letter today to Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference (NCCB/USCC), urged that Israel revise its current policy permitting the building of a mosque on public land adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunication in Nazareth.
(Later, in a telephone call from Rome to the General Secretariat of the NCCB/USCC here, Bishop Fiorenza said the Israeli government's policy permitting construction of the mosque is in complete contrast to a court decision about the ownership of the land. The Bishop also stressed that the Catholic Church in the United States stands in solidarity with the Church in Jerusalem and the entire Christian community in Nazareth).
"We understand how complex this situation is," Bishop Fiorenza said in the letter to Ambassador Zalman Shoval. "Nevertheless, it appears to us that a series of actions on the part of two successive Israeli governments...have aggravated an already difficult problem by acquiescing to the demands of extremists."
"We strongly urge the government of Israel to revise its current policy in favor of a more sensitive solution to the controversy, perhaps authorizing the construction of a mosque elsewhere or support a center for interreligious dialogue on the site," Bishop Fiorenza wrote. "Either solution will be welcomed by the Catholic Bishops of the United States as a sign that the Israeli government is committed to fostering good relations among its citizens who belong to different religious groups."
Text of Bishop Fiorenza's letter is attached.