For Greater Solidarity with the Christians
of the Holy Land
Jerusalem. January 24, 2002. Bishops from North America and Europe met in Jerusalem January 21-24 with the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. They came to learn about the situation of Christians in the Holy Land and to look at ways of strengthening solidarity between their own churches and the local Christian community.
The visiting delegates represented the bishops' conferences of Canada, England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United States of America, the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe and the Bishops' Commission for the European Union.
The executive committee overseeing the meeting consisted of Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Jacques Berthelet, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
The meeting took place amidst continuing turmoil and bloodshed. The reality of physical violence was made palpable by the shooting of more than twenty Israelis on Tuesday less than a mile from where the bishops met. The bishops also encountered fear on the part of many people that conflict, poverty and migration endanger the living Christian presence in the Holy Land.
In their concluding "Message to the Christians of the Holy Land," the bishops took note of the violence affecting everyone in the Holy Land. They wrote: "The present cycle of violence is a tragedy for everyone. It is profoundly wrong to keep a people under occupations; it is abhorrent to hold millions of men, women and children confined in one enormous jail. It is likewise morally reprehensible to take vengeance or undertake resistance with random attacks on innocent people."
The bishops found hope in their encounters with a wide range of local Palestinian, Jordanian and Hebrew-speaking scholars and pastors. One of the clearest messages to come from those encounters was the willingness of Christians in the Holy Land to be a bridge of hope in the present crisis between the region's different cultures and traditions.
The bishops also found that the local Church has many needs. For that reason, they were happy to receive from the Assembly recommendations for promoting greater solidarity with the international Catholic community, including Palestinians living abroad. Each conference or body will take its own action on these recommendations. The bishops hope that the resulting responses will enable them, in solidarity with the all the Christians of the Holy Land, to help increase the Church's contribution to peace and reconciliation in the region.
Among the other heads of delegations were: Bishop Manfred Melzer of the German Bishops' Conference, Bishop Giuseppe Merisi of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Bishop Pierre Burcher of the Swiss Episcopal Conference. Bishop William Kenney represented the Bishops' Commission for the European Union, and Archbishop Patrick Kelly also served as the delegate of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe.