Bishop's Holy Land pilgrimage concludes

2012-01-12 Vatican Radio

The 12th Meeting of the Holy Land Coordination Group concluded in Jerusalem Thursday. The group, which includes bishops from the UK, mainland Europe and North America, issued a closing statement summarizing their visit, during which they met with church leaders, local Christian communities, as well as with Israeli and Palestinian political leaders. Philippa Hitchen is in Jerusalem with the bishops and files this report:

Not pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian but pro-justice and peace. That’s the message at the heart of a final communiqué from the bishops of Europe and the United States who’ve spent this past week on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Reflecting on their meetings with local people, as well as with political and religious leaders, the bishops say they’ve seen how occupation and security, fear and frustration dominate the life of people across the land. Blaming the other side, they say, is an abdication of responsibility and a failure of leadership that people so desperately need.

While recognising the resumption of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, commended by Pope Benedict in his speech to the diplomats on Monday, the bishops say there is an urgency for a negotiated solution which is currently threatened and undermined by extremism and intolerance of ‘the other’.

On a positive note, they say they’ve also seen signs of hope such as the interfaith cooperation in Galilee, the housing projects and humanitarian work supported by international Catholic organisations and, above all, the continuing witness of local Christians despite the difficulties they face.

The bishops conclude by calling on political leaders – both in the Holy Land and in their own countries – to find greater courage and creativity, to be able to show forgiveness and a humility that must be at the basis of reconciliation in this land holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews.