WASHINGTON (June 22, 2000) -- Cardinal Bernard Law, Chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee, today welcomed the recent Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and other positive developments there, but warned that other challenges remain.
"[The withdrawal] stirs the hope that life can return to normal in that battled land," Cardinal Law, the Archbishop of Boston, said. "It marks the return of territorial integrity to the country of Lebanon, and moves her another step closer to regaining full sovereignty over that territory. It also opens new opportunities for progress towards a just peace in the Middle East."
Israel ended 22 years of occupation in southern Lebanon late last month, sparking a rush of Lebanese eager to return to their villages and militias eager to establish their own control in the region.
Cardinal Law said that among the challenges which still confront Lebanon are the restoration of public services, rebuilding ravaged infrastructure, and addressing the serious plight of Palestinian refugees currently in Lebanon. He called on the international community to assume a role in bringing a solution to the problem.
"Any meaningful peace must bring an end to a situation in which so many refugees are endangered by an uncertain and impoverished future," Cardinal Law said.
He praised recent reports of efforts by Muslims to reassure Christians that Christians are welcome to remain or to return to liberated parts of the country and to share in its reconstruction. "Lebanon can and should be a model of religious pluralism for the whole Middle East," he said. "The efforts of Lebanon's religious leaders, Christian and Muslim, to preserve and promote this unique gift at this time of transition deserve support."
Cardinal Law called on "all parties to the Middle East conflict to redouble their efforts to work for peace and justice." He also called on the U.S. government to take note of the changed situation in the Lebanon and "respond generously to Lebanon's reconstruction and development."
NOTE: Full text of Cardinal Law's statement