November 22, 2000
His Excellency David Ivry
Ambassador of Israel
3514 International Drive
Washington, D.C. 20008
I am writing to convey to you a message on the Middle East approved by the Catholic Bishops of the United States at their annual meeting in Washington last week.
In their message, the bishops are clear that the current violence must end and the peace process must be revived, so that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples may come to an agreed basis for a just and equitable peace. The bishops are also clear about the dangers inherent in efforts by extremists to use anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Christian acts to incite hatred and conflict.
In that connection, Mr. Ambassador, I would like to once again raise with you the question of the imminent construction of a new mosque adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth We are deeply disturbed by your government's decision to permit construction to begin, despite numerous appeals from the Christian leaders in the Holy Land and Pope John Paul II.
This situation comes at a time when the Christian population feels exceptionally vulnerable. Given the religious symbolism that surrounds the issue, its long-term impact on Christian pilgrimage and interreligious harmony in Israel could well be more serious than might first have been thought. It is not, for Christians, merely a matter of local politics but one which is felt to have serious consequences for the future of the Holy Places and for the Christian communities of the Holy Land. Many Muslim leaders, aware of the these concerns, have also opposed construction of the mosque.
I am grateful, your Excellency, for your attention to this matter, and I pray that Palestinians and Israelis may soon return to the path of peace.
Bernard Cardinal Law
Archbishop of Boston
Committee on International Policy
U.S. Catholic Conference