Jerusalem Patriarch Calls on All Churches to Help Peace
Janauray 15, 2004
                                 Zenit

                                 JERUSALEM, JAN. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).-
                                 At the start of a meeting of European and
                                 American bishops, the Catholic Church in
                                 the Holy Land made an appeal to all
                                 churches worldwide to help promote
                                 reconciliation.

                                 Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of
                                 Jerusalem made his appeal Monday
                                 before the bishops from England and
                                 Wales, the United States, Canada,
                                 Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain,
                                 Scandinavia and Switzerland, as well as
                                 two European Episcopal groupings. Also
                                 present was the bishop representing
                                 Caritas in Latin America.

                                 The Holy Land is "not only the scene of a
                                 political conflict between Palestinians and
                                 Israelis," the patriarch said.

                                 It is also "a Christian land," he said, and
                                 therefore "churches of the world have the
                                 responsibility to affirm this Christian
                                 character of the land by making
                                 themselves present through many ways
                                 of presence, pilgrimages, reconciliation
                                 and to respect the human person in
                                 general."

                                 Patriarch Sabbah added: "What is
                                 required indeed from the churches of the
                                 world is not to side with this side or the
                                 other but to help toward reconciliation,
                                 because the reconciliation of both peoples
                                 is also the best way to help the Christian
                                 presence in this land."

                                 The Latin-rite patriarch highlighted the
                                 obtaining of visas and residence permits
                                 for Church officials in the Holy Land as a
                                 new difficulty relating to "freedom of
                                 movement for the personnel of our
                                 various Churches."

                                 "It is a question of religious freedom, a
                                 question of free access to the Holy Land
                                 which allows Churches according to the
                                 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy
                                 See and the state of Israel, to have the freedom of maintaining their presence in
                                 the Holy Land with all the required personnel, religious or lay," said Patriarch
                                 Sabbah.

                                 "These meetings are important in order to strengthen our mutual communion
                                 and in order to find support and hope," he added.

                                 The patriarch's address came near the beginning of a busy schedule for the
                                 bishops, who are meeting for four days, initially at Bethlehem University, then at
                                 the Knights' Palace Hotel in the Old City, Jerusalem, according to the coordinator
                                 of the meeting, the bishops' conference of England and Wales.