Letter to the Israeli Ambassador to Canada

Thursday, April 05 2001

His Excellency Mr. David Sultan
Israeli Ambassador to Canada
#1005, 50 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 6L2

Your Excellency:

There have been reports this year that the Israeli military interfered in the pastoral visits of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, and also of the Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, Most Reverend Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo.

According to our information, Patriarch Sabbah was prevented by Israeli soldiers from making a pastoral visit to Ein Arik; I believe this would have been 9 March 2001 CE. Earlier, on 9 January of this year, Israeli soldiers fired at a car carrying Bishop Marcuzzo as well as Father Elie Kurzum, his secretary, and Father Elias Odeh, parish priest of the Israeli Arab village of Shefa Amer, as they tried to pass through a border checkpoint in order to visit the West Bank village of Zababdeh. The accounts indicate their car was flying the flag of the Holy See.

I understand that the Israeli Defense Force has apologized for the interference to the pastoral visit of Patriarch Sabbah, and that Israeli Justice and Religion Minister Yossi Beilin as well as Science, Culture and Sport Minister Matan Vilnai have apologized for the incident involving Bishop Marcuzzo.

While recognizing that apologies have been made by the Government of Israel, as President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops I want to emphasize that Catholic pastors and faithful in Canada are most concerned about these acts of interference. They are contrary to the principles of diplomacy, impede the freedom of movement and the exercise of religious freedom even by religious leaders, and in effect further the indiscriminate imposition of collective punishment.

Given the gravity of these concerns, and to assist our Conference in responding to queries about these incidents, it would assist us to have copies in English and/or French of both apologies.

As the 13 heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem announced earlier this week, “the violence which has intensified over these past months will only end when both parties in the conflict make a determined effort to respect each other’s rights while affirming the dignity and worth of every human life, man, woman, and child.” It would appear to us that in the present conflict an appropriate means to manifest the fundamental importance of all human rights is to respect religious freedom.

In thanking Your Excellency for conveying to the Government of Israel our deep concerns about these incidents, and also for providing copies to us of the apologies, I assure you of the prayers and efforts of all Canadian Catholics for a just and speedy resolution to all the violence that afflicts Israelis and Palestinians.


Most Reverend Gerald Wiesner, OMI
Bishop of Prince George
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

CC: Honourable John Manley, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade