Catholic peace summit to talk with Palestinian and Israeli presidents

 A Catholic summit on peace and reconciliation in the Middle East will be staged next week in Jerusalem. The meeting - co-ordinated by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and hosted by the Latin Patriarch - brings together six Bishops' Conferences and two European Bishops' groupings. Delegates are to meet the Palestinian Authority's President Yasser Arafat and Israel's President Moshe Katsav. Fr Frank Turner, Assistant General Secretary (International Affairs) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: "These are grim and painful times for the entire population of the Holy Land, and the Christian community there needs the solidarity, the prayers and the practical support of the Church worldwide. "This meeting is a focal point of this solidarity, in which representatives of several bishops' conferences can share in the local Church's mission to work for reconciliation and a just peace." The two-day event is hosted by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, and attended by delegates from the Catholic Bishops' Conferences in England and Wales, the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy and Spain, the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), and the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) Archbishop Patrick Kelly, of Liverpool, Fr Frank Turner and Dr David Ryall, of the International Affairs Department, will represent the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. The meeting will focus on the situation and needs of the Christian communities of the Holy Land, and on the Church's mission of peace and reconciliation, in the context of recent humanitarian, political, economic and military developments in the region. Delegates are to discuss the need for international advocacy on Bethlehem, the boundary wall, the relationship between the policy of closures, curfew, settlement expansion and the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and the relationship between the situation in the Holy Land and the possible war against Iraq. A Holy Land meeting previously took place in January last year (2002) when the Bishops released a "Message to the Christians of the Holy Land" which stated: "it is profoundly wrong to keep a people under occupations; it is abhorrent to hold millions of men, women and children confined in one enormous jail; it is likewise reprehensible to take vengeance or undertake resistance with random attacks on innocent people". Others aspects of the initiative included the fostering of support from episcopal conferences, encouragement of pilgrimages to the Holy Land and parochial and diocesan twinning and supporting Palestinian communities outside the Holy Land and groups working with the Christian community of the Holy Land. source: CCS

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