Solidarity for the Church in the Holy Land

Monday, January 20 2003

(CCCB – Ottawa) – Most Reverend Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and Bishop of Saint Jean-Longueuil, has just returned to Canada following a symposium on the future of the Holy Land held in Jerusalem attended by bishops from North America and Europe. The delegates also met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli State President Moshe Katsav. This is the third such symposium organized by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah.

Bishop Berthelet said today that the situation for Christians in the Middle East has deteriorated seriously. “One year after my last visit to the Holy Land, I saw that there is more violence and poverty, more unemployment, more emigration, that security measures are more oppressive and control points more numerous. Suffering and hopelessness are more present among the people and there is a general feeling of resignation, “ he said.

Underlining the courage and commitment of Christians in the Holy Land, Bishop Berthelet and the other bishops recommitted themselves to support the process for an unconditional peace in a message made public at the end of the meeting.

“We renew the promise we made a year ago. Until God grants the peace for which we all long, we promise to work without ceasing to help sustain you, our brothers and sisters in faith in Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel and Jordan. To you who first witnessed the risen Christ and seek a rightful share in the peace, which can be found only in him, we pledge our love and solidarity.”

The bishop delegates also agreed to encourage their respective episcopal conferences as well as those in other countries around the world to use every opportunity presented to them to plea for peace. They also wished for a better collaboration of efforts at various levels of the Church to continue in the work of promoting peace and in coming to the aid of victims of these tensions. They also wish to encourage Catholics around the world to be especially generous to the various aid campaigns.

Local authorities also expressed their hope to the delegates that pilgrimages to the Holy Land be undertaken anew. Bishop Berthelet concurred, saying, “We must promote pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Currently, hotels are closed, and buses remain in their garages. Pilgrimages would be a sign of our spiritual and material support. It would underline the solidarity of Christians throughout the world with those in the Holy Land.”

Finally, the bishops’ message expressed a hope for more inter faith dialogue between Jews and Muslims which would produce the fruits of reconciliation and the promotion of peace.