WASHINGTON (September 17, 2002) -– In a meeting yesterday (September 16) with President Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic leaders urged that the Bush administration take new steps to end the suffering of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and to restart peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Reverend Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, USA, and Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, participated in the meeting with Dr. Rice.
The three bishops, whose respective denominations have significant relief and development programs in the Holy Land, urged Dr. Rice to press for immediate and concrete measures to alleviate a grave and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza.
They reiterated their long-standing condemnation of suicide bombings and all forms of violence against civilians on both sides. They welcomed the Administration's commitment to both a safe and secure Israel and a viable, independent Palestinian state, and urged the Administration to take concrete steps to achieve these twin goals in the context of new peace negotiations.
While the original purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian situation, the church leaders also discussed Iraq, welcoming the President's engagement of the international community while reiterating the serious moral concerns each had expressed previously in their respective statements on the use of military force to overthrow the Iraqi government.