November 13, 2000
His Beatitude Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
It is with much sorrow that we, your brothers in the United States, have watched the violence which unfolded these last six weeks in the Holy Land. We mourn for those who have lost their lives, including so many children and youth. We are distressed by so many injured, who must live their the rest of their lives maimed and disabled. We worry about all those whose daily lives have been thrown into disarray by the current violence.
We are also profoundly troubled by the lost opportunities for a just peace, the continued occupation of the Palestinian homeland, and the deferral of the right of the Palestinian people to enjoy a state of their own.
To show our solidarity, I am asking the bishops of the United States at their annual General Assembly to join with me in asking the faithful in the United States to pray from the beginning of Advent until Epiphany for a peace in the Holy Land that reflects the equal right of the Palestinian people and Israeli people, in the words of the Holy Father, "to live in their own home in dignity and security."
In the same spirit, I am likewise asking the bishops to renew their call in The Challenge of Peace (1983) for voluntary fasting and abstinence each Friday during the same period with special reference to the Middle East. By prayer and fasting, we demonstrate the solidarity of the Catholics of the United States with the Christians of the Holy Land, and especially those of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, who have endured exceptional suffering during these past weeks.
As the Jubilee year comes to an end, it is fitting that we commend you for standing for peace in the face of violence, for basic rights in the face of injustice, and for the equal dignity of all persons, regardless of their religious or national identity, in the face of sectarian extremism. Catholics in the United States stand in solidarity with you and all our brothers and sisters who seek to witness to the gospel, in the most trying circumstances, in the land of the Bible. Their vocation has been a difficult one and we want to express our admiration, gratitude and attachment to them as we mark together the second millennium of Jesus' birth. Their faithful witness will help bring about what our Holy Father envisioned during his historic pilgrimage earlier this year: "If the various religious communities in the Holy City and in the Holy Land succeed in living and working together in friendship and harmony, this will be of enormous benefit not only to themselves but to the whole cause of peace in this region. Jerusalem will truly be a City of Peace for all peoples."
Please express to the Assembly of Catholic Bishops, to the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem, to the clergy and especially to the Christian people of the Holy Land our profoundest sentiments of solidarity and support in this trying time. This Jubilee Christmas may Jesus, the Desire of Nations, grant you lasting peace in your land. May the Prince of Peace fill your hearts with "the peace that surpasses all understanding."
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston