A wall and three paths

The visit of US and EU Holy Land Coordination Bishops

On January 10-14 US and EU Holy Land Coordination bishops (HLC) convened in Jerusalem for the traditional yearly January visit, ongoing since 1998 upon mandate of the Holy See in conjunction with the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Addresses were delivered by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, by the apostolic nuncio Msgr. Antonio Franco, and by other representatives of Catholic bodies operating at local level in support of the Palestinian population (not only Catholics). North-American and European prelates visited local parish churches as well as the Catholic university of Bethlehem. A final declaration was released at the end of the meeting (see www.ccee.ch) signed by all the delegates present, amongst whom figured also CCEE Secretary General father Duarte da Cunha. SIR Europe collected the statements of some of the bishops attending the meeting. A fragile hope. “When we are faced with a wall separating emotional bonds and relations, that crushes everyday life, including simple and routine action like going to school, to work, to the doctor, shopping, we are prompted to wonder what possible future there can there be in the Holy Land, for the Palestinian population in particular”, said Msgr. Peter Bürcher, head of the delegation of the Bishop Conference of Nordic Countries. “There is a grain of hope that depends on the efforts of numerous organizations and individuals who believe that peace is possible”. In this framework, “the local Church always bore witness to the hope in a just peace and in the rule of law”. Msgr. Bürcher identifies in three points the help that European Churches can give to their “sisters of the Holy Land”. These are “spiritual vicinity, material support and truthful information on the situation”. “Firstly, local Christians, along with their pastors and presbyters, ought to be the recipients of spiritual vicinity conveyed in prayer that ought to be accompanied by concrete solidarity, which isn’t confined to fulfilling economic needs but includes the promotion of aid projects and pilgrimages. It is equally important to raise national governments’ awareness of the situation under way here. Communicating accurate news is crucial”. The meeting after the clash. “Here three worlds coexist: the Moslem, Jewish and Christian ones. And it’s very hard to bring them together. A world where people cannot meet is already a form of violence. However, there are paths where the encounter is possible. One of these is the area of justice”. For Msgr. Michel Dubost, bishop of the French diocese of Evry, the meeting, after the clash, must take place in the area of justice and in the respect of the rule of law. “The consequences of the Israeli fence are enough to realize that justice must be demanded. I believe that in Jerusalem not everyone is aware of the wall’s existence nor are they informed of its consequences on the lives of the Palestinian population. In order to render a just service to the cause of peace, and thus to the conflicting populations, it’s necessary to inform, to convey the facts, to organize meetings on the situation in the Holy Land in our Countries and to raise public awareness. We cannot go on this way, we are held back by a wall. But in Europe it was torn down. The same can happen here with a little more creativity, imagination and vision. I am sure that here everyone wants peace”.“Great dignity”. “An extraordinary experience, which is both effective and useful”; Msgr. Riccardo Fontana, archbishop-bishop of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, strikes a balance of his participation with the EU and USA Coordination delegation to the Holy Land, the first time for an Italian prelate in the past ten years. “I was struck by the dignity of local Christians, perceivable also in their pastors, in the patriarch and clergy. As bishops we have chosen to reflect on the life of the church and not on politics. Our purpose is to acknowledge the difficulties experienced by these communities that are the victims of large-scale events, and that every evening, upon their tired return home, must ask for permission, confronting an occupation they did not cause and a terrorism they are unrelated to. And nonetheless, it’s moving to see that the Christians in the Holy Land speak in terms of love and forgiveness also towards those who are the cause of their own suffering”. “Israel and Muslims both need the Church – said Msgr. Fontana quoting the Israeli deputy Foreign minister Danny Ayalon, met on January 12 – that is the bearer of the culture of forgiveness and the practice of Christian charity. There will be no coexistence in the Holy Land without the Christians. This is why it’s important that they do not emigrate. My commitment will be to convey this extraordinary and useful experience to Italian Bishops”.

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