Bishop of Belleville
President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
January 9, 2002
On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I applaud the wise decision of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and his security cabinet to find an alternative location for the proposed mosque adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
The construction of this mosque by a faction of the Islamic Movement has been an ongoing source of grave concern to the Holy See, as well as Christian leaders in the Holy Land and Christian leaders throughout the world. Today's decision, which is in accord with Israeli law, reflects an appreciation of the deep religious significance of the Basilica for Christians around the world and reassures us of the Israeli government's commitment to fulfill its responsibilities toward the Holy Places, particularly with regard to ensuring "the Status Quo".
Nazareth, like many other places in the Holy Land, is important for all people of faith. We have been particularly encouraged by the strong support given by the many Muslim and Jewish leaders who have understood that construction of the mosque in this location would be an affront to Christians and an impediment to interfaith harmony. No one should use this decision to continue to foment political and religious dissension in the Holy Land. Rather, it should be an occasion to foster deeper understanding among people of all faiths and between faith communities and the Israeli government at a time so marred by conflict and violence.