Press Release

Meeting of Catholic Bishops with Palestinian Christian Communities, 21-24 January in Jerusalem.

Catholic Bishops from around the world are meeting in Jerusalem this week to show solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land. The bishops, hosted by HB Michel Sabbah Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, will be looking at how the Catholic Church in Europe and North America can help to improve the position of Christians living in the Holy Land. Palestinian Christians now form no more than 2% of the population in Israel and the Palestinian territories and there is profound concern that migration, as a result of the massive economic problems and insecurity caused by Israeli occupation and the intifada, will result in the further diminishment of the Christian community in the Holy Land.

Ten bishops from Canada, the United States, England and Wales, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Scandinavia will be discussing with Latin Patriarch Sabbah and the leaders of the other Catholic churches the situation of Christians in the region and the means they can undertake to support churches in the Holy Land. They will also look at the contribution Catholics in the West can make towards a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. In doing so they will be one with the universal Church in its efforts to achieve reconciliation and an end to violence and occupation.

The final status of Jerusalem in any Israeli-Palestinian agreement is also a key concern for the Christian community. The rights of three religious communities and two peoples must be safeguarded in the Holy City. Securing these rights, in the Church’s view, will require the international community to be involved in providing special guarantees.

The international delegation is led by Bishop Wilton Gregory and Bishop Jacques Berthelet (the presidents of the US and Canadian Catholic Conferences) and Archbishop Patrick Kelly (Vice-President of the English and Welsh Conference). The bishops will meet with a wide range of Christian leaders and laypeople, as well as with political leaders.  There will also be a visit to Bethlehem University to meet with academic officials and the Christian Brothers` community.
The bishops will also be encouraging their own Episcopal conferences to continue to work for justice in the Holy Land and to support Christians in the Holy Land.

For further information contact Fr Drew Christiansen SJ c/o Margo Sabella/CRS Jerusalem at 02 582 8149 (CRS Office) or  050 594 920 (Cell)