Bishops from across Europe and North America called on their governments to insist on the application of international law in Israel and Palestine, following their visit to the Holy Land this week.
The bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, who visit the region every year in support of the local Church to promote dialogue and peace, said they were inspired by the enduring resilience of the people they met in Gaza, East Jerusalem and Ramallah despite the worsening situation.
However, they echoed the local bishops’ lament the international community’s failure to realise justice and peace in the land of Christ’s birth. While the political solution had ultimately to be shaped by the people of the Holy Land through dialogue, they said there was an urgent need for the governments in their own countries in Europe, Canada and the USA to play an essential part by:
Insisting on the application of international law; following the Holy See’s lead in recognising the State of Palestine; addressing the security concerns of Israel and the right of all to live in safety; rejecting political or economic support for settlements and resolutely opposing acts of violence or abuses of human rights by any side.
They concluded their communique with prayer for the peace of Jerusalem.
We must not ignore the voice of people in the Holy Land
Every year we come to encounter and hear the people of the Holy Land. We are inspired by their enduring resilience and faith in a worsening situation.
In their recent powerful message, the local Catholic Bishops lamented the international community’s failure to help realise justice and peace here in the place of Christ’s birth. Our governments must do more to meet their responsibilities for upholding international law and protecting human dignity. In some cases they have become actively complicit in the evils of conflict and occupation.
The local Bishops also warned that people are facing further “evaporation of hope for a durable solution”. We have witnessed this reality first-hand, particularly how construction of settlements and the separation wall is destroying any prospect of two states existing in peace.
In the same message, the local Bishops have sounded the alarm about living conditions becoming “more and more unbearable”. This is painfully clear in the West Bank where our sisters and brothers are denied even basic rights including freedom of movement. In Gaza the political decisions of all sides have resulted in the creation of an open-air prison, human rights abuses and a profound humanitarian crisis. We were welcomed by families whose focus is now day-to-day survival and whose aspirations have been reduced to bare essentials such as electricity and clean water.
Amid these circumstances we are moved by the sacrifice of religious sisters, lay people and priests who are reaching out with respect to every side, in order to build a better future for all. They offer vital services, especially education, job opportunities and care for the most vulnerable people. We give thanks for their witness.
We encourage Christians in our own countries to pray for and support this mission. The increase in people making pilgrimages to the Holy Land is encouraging and we call for those who come to ensure they encounter the local communities.
At the same time we implore our governments to help build a new political solution rooted in human dignity for all. While this must ultimately be shaped by the peoples of the Holy Land in dialogue, there is an urgent need for our countries to play their part by:
In taking these steps the international community can meaningfully stand in solidarity with those Israelis and Palestinians who are refusing to give up their non-violent struggle for justice, peace and human rights.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Bishop Declan Lang (Chair of the Holy Land Coordination)
England and Wales
Bishop Udo Bentz
Archbishop Timothy Broglio
United States of America
Bishop Peter Bürcher
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden
Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni
Bishop Christopher Chessun
Church of England
Archbishop Richard Gagnon
Bishop William Kenney
England and Wales
Bishop Alan McGuckian
Bishop William Nolan
Bishop Marc Stenger
Bishop Noel Treanor
Archbishop Joan Enric Vives Sicilia
Fr Antonio Ammirati
Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe
Dr Erwin Tanner
Pictures of the Holy Land Coordination 2020 are available on our Flickr Photostream.