Final Communique
 
      On October 26 and 27, 1998, presidents or delegates from several
      Bishops' Conferences and the unions of Episcopal Conferences of
     Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia, invited Cardinals, and the
    members of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, met
   at the invitation of H.B. Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem,
                  to reflect on the question of Jerusalem.
 
   1. Aware of our responsibilities towards the Holy City, and responding
    to the invitation of the local Church of Jerusalem, and in communion
    with her, we wish to offer our contribution to the peace of the Holy
     City for the good of all its inhabitants and of all who love her,
   Jews, Christians and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis. Our only aim
      is to reach a stable peace in Jerusalem. In this task we wish to
              collaborate with all the Churches of Jerusalem.
 
    2. Jerusalem, the Holy City for the three monotheistic religions, is
       of unique value for the region and for the whole world. Thus,
     Jerusalem is and ought to be a universal symbol of fraternity and
                                   peace.
 
    3. Conscious of the unique significance of Jerusalem and bearing in
   mind the responsibilities which stem from her unique vocation, before
   God and before humanity, we find it fitting that the Jewish, Christian
   and Muslim faithful work together, with sincerity and in mutual trust,
    so that this city may truly be able to fulfil its divine calling: a
     place of encounter and reconciliation among religions and peoples.
 
     4. For Christians, as for Jews and Muslims, Jerusalem is a city of
   special religious reference. For Christians, in particular, Jerusalem
    is sacred as the place where Jesus, the Word and Son of God, lived,
       suffered, died on a cross and rose from the dead, bringing to
   completion the work of our redemption. The descent of the Holy Spirit
     on Pentecost Day marked the birth of the Church which spread from
       Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, so that down the centuries
      Jerusalem has been cherished throughout the world as "the Mother
   Church". Thus, the Holy City is always in our prayers as we await the
      final fulfilment of all the promises of God for a new Jerusalem,
        coming down from heaven where God will dwell with humanity.
 
    5. For 2,000 years, a living Christian community has been the bearer
   of the memory and the promise of the Holy City. Today, through all the
       changes and vicissitudes of history, this Christian community
    continues to dwell and worship in Jerusalem, and is deeply committed
     to continue to bear witness to the life, death and resurrection of
    Christ around the Holy Places where these mysteries were enacted. In
    fidelity to this commitment, they can rely on the solidarity of the
                             universal Church.
 
   6. During these days of reflection, we have reaffirmed the duty of all
     Christians together with other believers and people of goodwill to
   strive to find a solution to the many problems facing the peoples and
    believers of the Holy City. Today Jerusalem is at a crucial time in
     her modern history. Decisions taken in these days and those to be
     taken in the months ahead will influence the conditions of life in
       Jerusalem for the future. This becomes especially urgent as we
                approach the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
 
       7. Jerusalem, the city of three religions, is also home to two
     peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, and is the heartland of their
     respective national aspirations. Negotiations between the State of
   Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, with the support of the
   international community, will shape "a final status" for Jerusalem. It
   is incumbent on the believers of the three religions, out of the love
    and hope they bear for her, and on the community of nations, because
   of the unique and universal character of the Holy City, to share their
   thoughts and expectations for the future of Jerusalem. Decisions will
    be made by political leaders but the concerns and hopes of believers
            must also be included in the pertinent negotiations.
 
     8. We have also reaffirmed that the uniqueness and holiness of the
   most sacred parts of Jerusalem require a special statute for her most
    sacred parts, which recognizes the rights of alt its inhabitants and
      of its three religious communities. Active communities of Jews,
     Christians and Muslim should enjoy true freedom of conscience and
   religion, including full access to the Holy Places, and their right to
   carry out their own religious, educational and social activities. Such
   a statute should also guarantee the sacred character and the universal
     cultural heritage of the city. Free access to Jerusalem should be
    guaranteed to all, local people and pilgrims, friends and opponents.
     Finally, this special statute should be supported by international
                                guarantees.
 
   9. Therefore, conscious of the words of the Holy Father, "Jerusalem is
    that place where, more than any other, the dialogue between God and
    humanity was realized", we support the position of the Holy See and
    the Memorandum of the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
               signed and published by them in November 1994.
 
     © L'Osservatore Romano, Editorial and Management Offices, Via del
    Pellegrino, 00120, Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390.