Article from the “Catholic Weekly” Saturday, April 21 through Friday, April 27, 2001


By Robert Delaney
Catholic News Service

Troy – Citing the “deep sense of despair” that current fighting has produced among the dwindling number of Christians still living in the Holy Land, Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit called on Christians in the United States to come to their assistance.

Speaking recently in the Detroit suburb of Troy at a banquet for the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation, Cardinal Maida said it is “our obligation to be ministers of hope and consolation by whatever means we can do so – by our prayers, financially, and by other acts of solidarity with our brothers and sisters.”

He noted that he accompanied Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land last year, and because of that pilgrimage, “now more than ever, I have great empathy for the trials and tribulations of those who have bravely chosen to remain in the place of Jesus’ birth and the place of their own birth,” he said.

“Both Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike have had to endure daily deprivations and humiliations brought about by the actions of the Israeli government and/or military,” he continued.  “Realizing the very small number of Palestinian Christians – about 2 percent of the total population – it is clear that political pressure for their cause will have to come from the Christian community around the world.”

Palestinian Christians have preserved the shrines and sacred places since Jesus’ time and now Christians everywhere “owe our brothers and sisters in Palestine the support of our prayers, financial help, and political influence,” according to the cardinal.

Cardinal Maida called the establishment of a Palestinian state “a matter of Justice,” but he also stressed “ the importance of the continued existence of the state of Israel and all that is represents for Jewish people, not only in Israel, but also throughout the world.”

“As our Holy Father has repeatedly urged all parties, we must find a peaceful resolution of the situation in the Middle East so that the Palestinians and Israelis – Christians, Jews and Muslims – can live together in peace and harmony,” the cardinal said.

“Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lived and died for reconciliation between God and all humankind and His last breath was prayer for forgiveness of all people.  As his followers, we have no choice but to work to affirm the rights and dignity of all our borers and sisters without exception, “ he added.

Emphasizing that he was speaking from a religious, not political, viewpoint, Cardinal Maida said he saw the crucial issues ass ending the current violence, pursuing dialogue, and reviving the peace process.

He urged his audience to pursue a similar approach in their own activities in this country, suggesting that they could seek to have their next symposium co-sponsored by local religious leaders from the Jewish and Muslim communities.

“In the end, all of us want the same thing – a Holy Land that is truly holy or sacred, a place at peace, not a hotbed of religious hatred or violence.  This land will be holy if we see all its people as holy – a living land of living peoples, a Holy Land of holy people.”

Among its activities, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation offers a sponsorship program whereby people of the United States can help sponsor Palestinian children to attend Catholic schools.

Other programs include matching American and Palestinian congregations in sister parish relationships, promoting the sale of handicrafts produced by Christians in the Holy Land, and various efforts aimed at economic development.