Message to CCCB members on the situation and needs of the Holy Land

Tuesday, March 04 2003

Dear brother Bishop:

Following my return from Jerusalem this past January, I asked that you be sent several documents indicating how the situation today in the Holy Land is no less than catastrophic.

Over the past year, the number of deaths has increased; unemployment has reached an incredible level; more than 2000 Christians from all Churches have emigrated over the past two years (representing one per cent of the Christian population); control points are even more numerous, with ambulances not even able to cross them; a major portion of the people rely on food banks; free access is restricted, including for places of worship; and, the final tragedy, the eight-meter-high wall that is being constructed to separate the Israeli communities from the Palestinian territories has now arrived at the gates of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is to be separated from Jerusalem and the other territories, with 60 Christian families, close to the Rachel’s Tomb, encircled, isolated and cut off from every service. The people of Bethlehem thus find themselves closed off, daily threatened by a slow death and forced to emigrate.

Because of financial limitations and the occupation, schools and educational institutions are closed; access to places of worship is limited; unemployment is imposed with people unable to get to work; and sanitation is reduced. People are humiliated and hopeless.

I ask you, my brother Bishop, to remind your faithful of the urgency of the assistance that is provided each year to the Holy Land by means of the Good Friday Collection. I would also hope that you invite your faithful to prayer and solidarity for our brothers and sisters who belong to our mother Church in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land. Obviously, all the Middle East is currently at the centre of our concerns. In communion with the Holy Father and the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, I would be grateful for your allowing your diocesan Church to open its heart to the suffering being experienced in the land of Jesus, in order that hope there not die!

In fraternal communion this Ash Wednesday 2003,

+ Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V.
Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil