Catholic summit pledges support to Holy Land Christians

 A Catholic summit in Jerusalem ended today with a message of support for the Christians of the Holy Land and a set of proposals. The meeting - which included meetings with President Katsav of Israel and President Arafat of the Palestinian Authority - examined in some depth the situation in the Holy Land. The event was hosted by His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch, and attended by delegates from the Catholic Bishops' Conferences in England and Wales, the U.S., Germany, Canada, Spain and Italy as well as the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE). The co-ordination led by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, vice-president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Bishop William Skylstad, of the U.S., Bishop Jacques Berthelet, of Canada, Bishop Joan Enric Vives, of Spain, Bishop Reinhard Marx, of Germany, and Monsignor Piergiuseppe Vachelli of Italy, issued a call for renewed international advocacy for peace in the Holy Land. In a message to the Christians of the Holy Land, the visiting bishops of Europe and North America said: "It is clear that fear and mistrust grip many more besides you, our Christian sisters and brothers. Yet at the same time, we have been assured of widespread longing for justice and peace, and have experienced the lively hope that must, it seems, inspire the continued courage and dedication of so many people, not least your own commitment to reconciliation." It added: "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 new proposals agreed by the peace summit were: (1) Increased contact between our conferences and the Church in the Holy Land (the Assembly, the Latin Patriarch, the Nuncio, the Heads of Churches and other relevant church bodies) is necessary, (2) The steering capacity of the facilitating bishop's conference ought to be strengthened. To this end, the Coordination facilitator will be responsible (a) for proposing issues for common advocacy (e.g., matters of humanitarian access), and (b)for identifying 'best practices' (e.g. child sponsorship and partnership programs). (3) Regular and crisis communication among our conferences, on Holy Land issues, ought to be expanded. (4) Information and proposals for action ought to be extended to a wider circle of conferences and Catholic organizations. Where feasible, additional conferences ought to be invited to participate in our meetings. The meeting also agreed that: * while resuming pilgrimages of the faithful on a large-scale may not be possible under present circumstances, every effort should be made to encourage pilgrimages by leadership groups in the Church, * the material needs of the Holy Land's Christians are urgent, * sharing information on how donations are used will encourage further generosity, * we value the increased collaboration on the part of local and international Catholic agencies in the Holy Land and will continue to work with such agencies, particularly with Caritas Internationalis, * we encourage placing the Holy Land on the agendas of the annual continental and inter-continental bishops meetings and should be prepared to provide information for preparation of these meetings, * we support ecumenical collaboration in efforts to express solidarity with the Christians of the Holy Land and take particular note of relevance of 'accompaniment programs' like that sponsored by the World Council of Churches and endorsed by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, and * interfaith dialogue with Jews and Muslims should be enhanced and it is hoped he fruit of these dialogues will include reconciliation and a shared pursuit of peace. Source: CCS

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