JERUSALEM — Bishops from North America and Europe visiting for the annual Holy Land Coordination said countries must reject political or economic support for settlements but address security concerns of Israel and the right of all to live in safety.
“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 bishops said in their final communique.
On the Jan. 12-16 trip, the bishops met with local Christian communities in Ramallah, West Bank; Jerusalem; and the Gaza Strip. They also met with Israeli and Palestinian representatives. The annual visit is designed to show support for the Holy Land’s Christian communities.
Noting that local bishops warned people were facing further “evaporation of hope for a durable solution,” the bishops said they had “witnessed this reality first-hand” of how construction of settlements and the separation wall were “destroying any prospect of two states existing in peace.”
They called on their governments to take an active role in building a new political solution “rooted in human dignity for all.”
Though this must be shaped through dialogue by the people living in the Holy Land, the bishops said there is an “urgent need” for their countries to play a part by insisting on the application of international law, following the Vatican’s lead in recognizing the State of Palestine, rejecting political or economic support for the settlements and addressing the security concerns of Israel.
They also said acts of violence or abuses of human rights by any side should be “resolutely opposed.”
The bishops said they are inspired by the enduring resilience and faith despite the worsening situation of the local Christian community.
They noted that the local bishops have also sounded the alarm about living conditions becoming “more and more unbearable,” which is evident in the West Bank — where Palestinians are denied basic rights, including freedom of movement — and in Gaza which, because of political decisions on both sides, has become an “open-air prison” with 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,” they said.
The bishops expressed gratitude for the witness and sacrifice, amid this struggle, of “religious sisters, laypeople and priests reaching out with respect to every side, in order to build a better future for all.”
They ended their communique with a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services represented the United States on the trip. Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, Manitoba, represented Canadians. The 13 other bishops were from Europe.
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