Jerusalem and the Vatican
Summery: The Church is not anti-Israeli or pro-Arab, the Church is pro-Truth
Before I quote the Vatican Al-Bushra has to clearify someting:
Some people are trying to say things on the Internet that could create tensions, violence and hate between Israelis and Arabs. When we that the three components of the Holy Land Society: Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Moslems are partenars of PEACE and not for VIOLENCE. They are equal in rights and duties, nobody can pretnd that the Holy Land or aa part of it belonmgs to him exclusively. Jerusalem is the Capital of two states Palestine and Israel.
So please be aware of this. And help us to see the TRUTH.
The five components of the Holy Land Society: the Palestinians (Arabs) and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslims should have the same duties and equal responsabilities.No one is better than the other, all are the same, all are equals. The God that we beleive in is the Same for all of us. He is God, Allah, Adonia, Yahweh, the MOST HOLY ONE, Hashem for all of us. We are equal in front of his eyes
The Vatican and Head of Christian Churches in Jerusalem spoke in different occasions about the refusal of the "JUDAIZATION" of Jerusalem and any kind of exclusivism that would lead to violence.
The Vatican have said:
A very grave state of affairs is being created against legality, on the basis of the logic of "accomplished facts". The measures of expropriation suffices to give an idea of the radical manner in which a character, not conforming to its historical and religious nature and to its universal vocation is being IMPOSED on the City (Jerusalem).
In January 1968, 300 acres of land were confiscated in the Mount Scopus area and are already largely built up with Jewish residential quarter.
In August 1970, another 1,200 acres have been conficated in the Arab Zone of Jerusalem and around the city, in order to implement the "Greater Jerusalem" plans.
Another project is under study for the Old City of Jerusalem, according to which about 6,000 Arabs will be displaced and several buildings confiscated. It is impossible to avoid experiencing a profound aprrehension towards such grave changes. Even in Israel itself these plans have provoked motivationed criticism and not just from an urbanistic point of veiw" Osservatore Roman, March 22, 1971
1) POPE PAUL VI
Osservatore Romano March 22, 1971- March 25 "A very grave state of affairs is being created against legality, on the basis of the logic of "accomplished facts". The measures of expropriation surfice to give an idea of radical manner in which a character not conforming to its historical and religious nature and its universal vocation is being imposed on the City. In January 1968, 300 acres of land were confiscated in the Mount Scopus area and are already largely built up with Jewish residential quarters. In August 1970, another 1,200 qcres have beeen confiscated in the Arab Zone of Jerusalem and around the city, in order to implement the "Greater Jerusalem" plans. Another project is under study for the Old City of Jerusalem, according to which about 6.000 Arabs will be displaced and several grave buildings confiscated. It is impossible to avoid experiencing a profound apprehansion towards such grave changes. Even in Israel itself these plans have provoked motivated criticism and not just form an urbanistic point of view"
2) POPE JOHN PAUL II
May, 1996 (Jerusalem-consideration of the secretariate of State) "...The part of the City (Jerusalem) militarily occupied in 1967 and subsequently annexed and declared the Capital of the State of Israel, is OCCUPIED TERRITORIES, and all Israeli mesures which exceed the power of a belligerent occupant under international law are therefore NUL AND VOID. In particular, this same position was expressed, and is still expressed, by Resolution 478 of the United Nations Security Council, adopted on 20 August 1980, which declared the Israeli "basic law" concerning Jerusalem to be "NULL AND VOID"..."
Confiscation continued, now hundred of thousands of acres, Arabs were displaced, settlement were built. The letter that I quoted was written on 1971, we are in 1999, 28 years later. We cannot speak about Justice, Peace and TRUTH if we do not read history and facts on the ground.
The International Community and the WHOLE WORLD know that this is not right and what is happening now in Jerusalem is realy unjust and do not serve peace and COPREHENSIVE JUSTICE between the five components of the Holy Land society: Palestinians and Israleis, Jews, Christians and Muslims.
On March1996 the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem sent a press Release world wide asking the Israeli Authorities to stop confiscating the Arab Lands. Easter was around the corner. A year after, and again, Easter is around the corner, Israeli Authorities decide to build on those confiscated lands from the Christian Community in the Holy Land.
a- This provocation shows that the Christian Community is deprived of its fundamental rights. Muslims and Christians are suffering from the same Israeli discremination. Palestinians as one people are (Muslims, Christians and Jews), they do need a CLEAR STAND for JUSTICE from the international community.
b- This provocation makes that the question that Patriarch Sabbah asked on point 3 “Have the Israeli Authorities the intention to reduce the Christian presence and invite Christians to emigrate by confiscating their lands? As if the Israeli Authorities answered YES WE WANT it, who cares for Christians in the Holy Land!
c- When confications raise frustration violence is fueled and nourished. We need your prayers, you CLEAR STANDS to stop all kind of violence. Confiscatng lands and building over those conficating land, despite the international law and sighed agreementsa, is a clear VIOLENCE. Please, help us to stop all kind of violence
Let us read some texts:
Jerusalem, Considerations of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, Vatican, May 1996
1- The fundamental agreement between the holy see and the state of Israel was signed on 30 December 1993 . In Article 11, paragraph 2 of the Agreement we find the same basic concept that appear in article 24 of the Lateral Treaty , which was an agreement between the holy see and the Italian state, signed on 11 February 1929, (ending a long controversy arising out of the occupation of Rome in 1870).
Paragraph 2 of article 11 of the fundamental agreement says : "the Holy See ......is solemnly committed to remaining a stranger to all morally to moral conflicts, which principle applies specifically to disputed territories and unsettled borders" This statement has given rise to a number of critical observations, specially when reference is being made to the status of Jerusalem > In part , these reservations may due to the fact that few people have paid proper attention to the first part of the same Paragraph 2 of Article 11 , where it says that the holy see maintain " in every case the right to exercise its moral and spiritual teaching office " 2- on the same day that the agreement was signed , the press office of the holy see publicly presented a detailed official statement , which included, among other things , an explanation of the meaning of article 11, paragraph
2. The statement said that the Holy see would not get involved in territorial problems as far as strictly technical aspect were concerned, but it would not renounce its mission or its right to express its judgment on the moral dimensions that each of these questions necessarily entails.
3- The same statement made a specific reference to the question of Jerusalem and affirmed: that questions relative to the city of Jerusalem have been a cause of concern for the holy see for a long time ; - that these questions are not mentioned in the agreement because of their international and multilateral character , which prevents their being resolved by the fundamental agreement , which , by its nature is bilateral, binding only the two parties which signed it : - that these questions remain important for the holy see which has not changed its position on them (a position which the statement then proceeds to illustrate ).
I- Analysis of the question
1. There exists a territorial problem relative to Jerusalem. Since 1967, when a part of the city was militarily occupied and then annexed, this problem has become more obvious and more difficult. The part of the city that was occupied and annexed is where most of the Holy places of the three monotheistic religion are situated. The holy see has always insisted that this territorial question should be resolved equitably and by negotiation.
The holy see, as the previously mentioned article 11 of the fundamental agreement indicates, is not concerned with the question of how many square meters or kilometers constitute the disputed territory, but it does have the right - a right which it exercise- to express a moral judgment on the situation. it is obvious that every territorial dispute involves ethical considerations, such as the right of national communities to self -determination, the right of communities to preserve their own identity, the right of all people to equality before the law and in the distribution of resources, the right not to be discriminated against by reason of ethnic origin or religious affiliation, etc.
The holy see's attitude with regard to the territorial situation of Jerusalem is necessarily the same as that of the international community . The latter could be summarized as follows : the part of the city militarily occupied in 1967 and annexed and declared the capital of the state of Israel, is occupied territory, and all Israeli measures which exceed the power of a belligerent occupant under international law are therefore null and void.
In particular, This same position was expressed, and is still expressed, by Resolution 478 of the United Nations security Council, adopted on 20 August 1980, Which declared the Israel "basic law" concerning Jerusalem to be "null and void", and which invited countries with Embassies in Jerusalem to move them elsewhere . As is well known , when the holy see entered into diplomatic relations with the state of Israel, it opened its Nunciature (Embassy) in Tel Aviv, where indeed the overwhelming majority of the Embassies are situated. It is also well known that the Apostolic Delegation for Jerusalem and Palestine, (opened) on 11 February 1948, before the state of Israel was established) continues to function.
2- There is however a further aspect of Jerusalem which in the holy see's view goes well beyond the simple territorial aspect : this is the " religious dimension" of the city , the particular value which it has for the Jewish , Christian and Muslim believers who live there, and for Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers throughout the world. It is a question here of a value which must be considered as having a worldwide and universal character: Jerusalem is a " treasure of the whole humanity". For decades , and long before the 1967 occupation, the holy see has always been very attentive to this aspect, and has not failed to intervene when necessary, insisting on the need for adequate measures to protect the singular identity of the holy City. An explanation of what this protection consists of, and what characteristics it must have in order to meet its objectives, can be outlined as follows in 11, 2.
a) with a view to safeguarding the universal character of a city already claimed by two peoples (Arab and Jewish) and held sacred by three religions , the holy see supported the proposal for the internationalization of the territory , the "corpus separatum" called for by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (11) of 29 November 1047. The holy see at the time considered the " corpus separatum" as an adequate means, a useful juridical instrument, for preventing Jerusalem from becoming a cause and arena of conflict , with the resulting loss of an important aspect of its identity (as in fact subsequently happened and continues to happen).
b) In the years that followed, although the objective of internationalization was shown to be unattainable, the Holy see- especially, but not only, through public statement of the popes- continued to call for the protection of the holy city's identity. It consistently drew attention to the need for an international commitment in this regard . To this end, the holy see has consistently called for an international juridical instrument: which is what is meant by the phrase " an internationally guaranteed special statute".
c) Following the well-known events of 1967 and their aftermath, the holy see's concern has not waned but has become ever more insistent. Documented proof of this concern can be found in Archbishop Edmond Farhat's collection of documents,entitled Jerusalem in Papal Documents from 1997 to 1984 , published in Rome in 1987. This valuable work has also been translated into Arabic and published in Lebanon. Among these documents the following can be listed as examples for their comprehensiveness and clarity: - the Address of Pope Paul VI to the Cardinals and prelates of the Roman Curia on 22 December 1967; the Statement distributed at the United Nations by the Holy see's permanent Observer Mission on 3 December 1979 ; the article which appeared in the 30 June- 1 July 1980 edition of L'osservatore Romano.
II. Clarification of some concepts
1- It is important to note that in its interventions the holy see has always insisted on yet another question, which given the particular situation of Jerusalem, is of fundamental importance precisely for safeguarding the identity of the holy City, Jerusalem is equally regarded as sacred by the three great monotheistic religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In other words , no unilateral claim made in the name of one or other of these religions , or by reason of historical precedence or numerical preponderance, is acceptable , Jerusalem is a unique reality, universal because of its sacredness, as a whole and for the tree religions. This was clearly underscored by his Holiness Pope John Paul 11 his Apostolic Letter Redemptions Anno of 20 April 1984.
There he writes: "..... Jews ardently love (Jerusalem ) and every age venerate her memory , abundant as she is in many remains and monuments from the time of David who chose her as the capital , and of Solomon who built the Temple there . Therefore they turn their minds to her daily one may say, and point to her as sign of their nation." " Christians honor her with a religious and intent concern because there the words of Christ so often resound , there the great events of the Redemption were accomplished; the passion , Death and Resurrection of the Lord . In the City of Jerusalem the first Christian community sprang up and remained through the centuries a continual ecclesial presence despite difficulties ." Muslims also call Jerusalem "holy" with a profound attachment that goes back to the origins of Islam and spring from the fact that they have there many special places of pilgrimage and for more than a thousand years have there, almost without interruption,"
2- It would also seem important and fundamental to explain what the holy see means by " safeguarding the identity" of Jerusalem, and what it means by " guarantees". In the Holy see's View:- The historical and and material characteristics of the City, as well as its religious and cultural characteristics, must be preserved, and perhaps today it is necessary to speak of restoring and safeguarding those still existing; - there must be equality of rights and treatment for those belonging to the communities of the three religions found in the city, in the context of the freedom of spiritual, cultural, civic and economic activities;- the Holy Places situated in the City must be preserved, and the rights of freedom of religion and worship, and of access, for residents and pilgrims alike, whether from the Holy Land itself or from other parts of the world , must be safeguarded. At stake is the basic question of preserving and protecting the identity of the Holy City in its entirety, in every aspect. For example, the simple "extra-territoriality"of the Holy Places, with the assurance that pilgrims would be able to visit them without hindrance, would not suffice.
The identity of the City includes a sacred character which belongs not just to the individual sites or monuments, as if these could be separated from one another or isolated from the respective communities. The sacred character involves Jerusalem in its entirety, its holy places and its communities.
III. Situation after the Oslo
The agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians called for a second stage, in which some particularly delicate and difficult problems would be dealt with. These include the whole question of Jerusalem. From this perspective, the Holy See, firmly maintaining its position, together with the requirements that follow from it believes that certain considerations can be formulated:
1. It is foreseen that negotiations will take place . The promise of negotiations and the presumption that they will take place are already in themselves a positive development, but only a beginning . The Holy See can only hope that the intentions expressed by the parties most directly involved will become a reality.
The Holy See is ready to offer its support in this regard, in accordance with the possibilities open to it and its specific character.
2. As they are now prospected, the negotiations are expected to include the participation of the sponsors of the peace process and, in the light of statements made in the last few months , other parties also could be invited to contribute. The Holy See believes in the importance of extending representation at the negotiating table , precisely in order to ensure that the negotiations themselves are fair and that no aspect of the problem is overlooked.
3. It is essential that the parties to the negotiations take fair and appropriate account of the sacred and universal character of the City . This requires that any possible solution should have the support of the three religions, both at the local level and beyond, and that the international community should in some way be involved.
4. In effect , the territorial and religious dimensions of the problem, although often separated in order to facilitate proper and thorough discussions of the situation, are interrelated. They are such that a political solution will not be valid unless it takes into account in a profound and just manner, the religious needs present in the city . This the Holy See has often stresses. These are needs stemming from history , but above all they are needs of today; they concerns;before all else, the full observance of that most fundamental of human rights, the right to freedom of religion and conscience.
The patriarchs and the other Christian religious leaders in Jerusalem on 14 November 1994 issued a Declaration on the Holy City . In the final part of their document they wrote ".... it is necessary to accord Jerusalem a special status which will allow Jerusalem not to be victimized by laws imposed as a result of hostilities wars but to be an open City which transcends local, regional and world political troubles.
This statute, established in common by local political and religious authorities , should also be guaranteed by the international community." This demand of the Christian religious leaders of Jerusalem substantially reflects what the Holy See has insisted on for Years, and which was repeated, though in different terms, by His Holiness Pope John Paul 11 on 13 January last in his Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See :
1. His Holiness first invoked divine assistance: May God assist the Israelis and the Palestinians to live from now on side by side, with one another , in peace , mutual esteem and sincere cooperation ! He added: "Allow me to confide that this hope could prove ephemeral if a just and adequate solution is not also found to the particular problem of Jerusalem ". (Thus, the question of Jerusalem, together with all that it involves- politically, territorially, religiously, demographically, etc.- exists and is a fundamental one.)
2. The Pope continued: " The religious and universal dimension of the Holy City demands a commitment on the part of the whole international community, in order to ensure that the City preserve its uniqueness and retain its living character",(The Pope thus calls for a commitment that is international in nature in order to preserve Jerusalem's identity , especially from the religious and cultural point of view, the very reason why the City constitutes an important part of the world's patrimony). He goes on to say that:: "The Holy Places, dear to the three monotheistic religions, are of course important for believers, but they would lose much of their significance if they were not permanently surrounded by active communities of Jews, Christians and Muslims, enjoying true freedom of conscience and religion, and engaging in their own religious educational and social activities."
3. And referring to the scheduled negotiations which should take into account the question of Jerusalem in its entirety , the Pope said: "It is my hope that the international community will offer to the political partners most directly involved the juridical and diplomatic instruments capable of ensuring that Jerusalem, one and holy, may truly be a crossroads of peace". (Here His Holiness is asking for an international instrument and for international assistance to safeguard the true value that Jerusalem has for Israelis and Palestinians , for Jews , Christians and Muslims).
The Pope addresses this call to the good will of the political leaders of that region and of the whole world, and to their sense of justice. It is a please he makes to all believers, and prayer to the God of the three religions, who chose to bless that region with a special manifestation of his presence. God did so in order to call men and women to accept, understand and make their own contribution to his message of brotherhood and peace. The already quoted Apostolic Letter Redemptions Anno: ".... Jerusalem contains communities of believers full of life, whose presence the people of the whole world regard as a sign and source of hope - especially those who consider the Holy City to be in a certain way their spiritual heritage and a symbol of peace and harmony".
"Indeed , insofar as she is the homeland of the hearts of all the spiritual descendants of Abraham who hold her very dear, and the place where, according to faith the created things of earth encounter the infinite transcendence of God , Jerusalem stands out a symbol of coming together , of union and of universal peace for the human family."
The Holy See and the Middle East
His Excellency Most Reverend Jean-Louis Tauran
Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See
The Catholic Church's interest in the Middle East goes back to the very first years of the Church's existence. Christians have always revered this region of the world, where God has drawn close to mankind: there the Jewish people had its founding experience of the Covenant; there Jesus lived, died and rose; it was there that the Prophet Mohammed developed his religious and juridical thought. So it is a region where for centuries faith and culture, faith and polities have met, sometimes fi'uitfully, often in confrontation.
For a very long time the fate of Christians in that part of the world was linked to the interests of the European powers. Since this century's process of decolonization they have tended to feel somewhat abandoned in the midst of a Muslim majority or within a new Jewish State, surrounded by their Palestinian compatriots and caught up in bloody wars. As has been written, the Catholics have little by little become "thrice a minority, as Arabs among the Jews, as Arab Christians among Arab Muslims and as a minority within Christian society" (Daniel Rossing).
So it was normal that the Holy See should have shown a particular interest in this part of the world, and this in order:
- to protect, and if necessary defend, the existence of Catholics and of Christians in general;
- to help very differing peoples, constrained to coexistence by geography and history, to respect fundamental human rights and international law;
- to defend the right of every people to choose freely its own destiny, in accordance with the principle of self-determination;
- to defend the right of all States to live within clearly defined borders, without having to be in a constant state of alert;
- to foster mutual understanding, dialogue between individuals and communities of believers in countries where religion and the structure of society go hand in hand;
- to make everyone understand that war, which too often has bathed that region in blood, can never be a worthy means for people, especially if they are believers, to resolve their inevitable differences.
1. For many centuries the main priority of the Popes was to ensure the survival of thee Christians of the Middle East. Of this long history, marked as it is by the many sufferings of our brothers and sisters in the faith, I wish to recall just one aspect: the solicitude of the Holy See in defending the Christians who, after the Islamic conquest, were reduced to being (and with very few exceptions remain) second class citizens (dhimmis). Rome has never wanted Christians to live in ghettos, but on the contrary to establish a symbiotic relationship with Islam.
The model which the Popes sought to safeguard and to promote is that of the Lebanon. The National Pact of 1943 established that from then onwards Christians, Jews and Muslims would enjoy the same rights and without any discrimination be able to assume public office within a democracy, where the most differing cultures come together into a melting-pot of East and West and where the monotheistic religions meet each other in harmony, making of that land more than a mere country, but rather "a message", to use an expression so dear to Pope John Paul II. Thus during the seventeen long years of the recent civil war, the Holy See always encouraged resistance to the temptation, which certain Lebanese circles harboured, to create a mini Christian state. The Holy See was convinced that through national and regional coexistence alone would believers, Jews, Christians and Muslims, safeguard the identity of their community. The rallying cry was to some extent "Let us save Lebanon to save the Christians" (and not "Let us save the Christians to save Lebanon"!).
The western powers, after the ambiguities of the Crusades, would themselves seek, through the system of the "Capitulations" and of mandates, to ensure, as best they could, good neighbourliness between the peoples and religions of the region. May I mention, by the way, apart from the creation of the Custody of the Holy Land, which had first occurred to the Sovereigns of the Kingdom of Naples in 14th century, the more recent efforts of France on behalf of Latin Catholics, the efforts of Russia on behalf of the Orthodox or yet again the action of Germany and England on behalf of Protestants. The Holy See was always careful to preserve its specific identity and independence both in thought and action. As a result of the decolonization process, it was able without any hesitation to establish diplomatic relations with the emerging countries: in 1947 with Lebanon and Egypt, in 1953 with Syria and Iran, in 1960 with Turkey, in 1966 with Iraq and in 1968 with Kuwait. In a different historical context, but certainly animated by the same spirit of dialogue from which none were excluded, the Holy See in the course of the year 1994 established diplomatic relations with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel, and official relations with the PLO. It thus became clear that the Popes had nothing against Islam and remained convinced that it was possible for believers to live in peace and to work together for the common good of their societies.
Together with this diplomatic action properly speaking, there must be added the constant effort to strengthen ecclesial structures: the support of the Custody of the Holy Land entrusted by the Popes to the Franciscan Friars since 1342; the granting of patriarchal dignity to the Latin Bishop of Jerusalem by Pope Pius IX in 1847; the creation ora Roman Dicastery for the Oriental Churches by Pope Benedict XV in 1917; the publication of the Encyclical "Orientalium rerum" by Pope Pius XI in 1928 to promote understanding of the Christian East; the 1964 Decree of the Second Vatican Council on the Oriental Churches "Orientalium Ecclesiarum"; the promulgation of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in 1990; without forgetting such charitable works as the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and "L'Oeuvre d'Orient", just to mention the best known.
2. The second approach for the action of the Holy See has been constantly to assert the principles of intemational law, which is applicable in all circumstances and to which all are subject. This proclamation of the law has been strictly maintained by the Holy See, which frequently found itself alone, but because of its quality as a "moral power" certainly could not be dispensed from proclaiming:
- respect for persons whatever their beliefs;
- freedom of conscience and religion;
- the right of peoples to self-determination;
- rejection of war and terrorism as the solution to differences between States.
On two occasions the Holy See has demonstrated its fidelity to this philosophy of international relations.
The first instance is in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Each and every intervention by the Popes and their collaborators has consisted in stating that every people has the right to dignity, peace and security. And yet these cannot be secured by trampling on those of others. That is why the Popes, as also the international community, have never accepted, and this still remains true today, the annexation of territory by force. They have never ceased to invite the parties in conflict to meet, engage in dialogne and negotiate. Thus it is easy to appreciate that without the least hesitation Pope John Paul II encouraged the Middle East Peace Process, and in particular the Madrid Conference (his letters to Presidents Bush and Gorbachev eloquently witness to this). Moreover, the Madrid context has enabled the Holy See to reach a "Fundamental Agreement" and to establish diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. The political dialogue between Israelis and Arabs which was going on at the time allowed the Holy See to draw closer to one of the main actors in the crisis, that is to say the State of Israel, without having to sacrifice the principles it seeks to defend and which are adequately reflected in the pertinent UN Resolutions. If the Palestinian partners, supported by the Arab world, were seated around the negotiating table, who could blame the Holy See for pursuing a more formal dialogue with the Israeli authorities in order to contribute more effectively to the cause of peace? It has become clear, as a reading of the 30 December 1993 Fundamental Agreement and the authorized interpretative declarations show, that the Holy See has absolutely not abandoned its principles: the peaceful resolution of differences, rejection of the forcible occupation by one of the parties of an area of the City of Jerusalem and the request for an internationally guaranteed statute for the most religious parts of this unique city.
A second opportunity for a clear assertion of the principles professed through the diplomacy of the Holy See was offered by the Gulf War in 1991. Pope John Paul II spoke of the war as "an adventure without return" and made a point of rebuffing the attribution to the crisis of any religious motive or interpretation. By unceasingly inviting the protagonists to engage in dialogue, to follow untiringly the path of negotiation and to weigh the proportions between the remedies aimed at eliminating a wrong and the negative humanitarian consequences, the Pope once again demonstrated the independence of the international action of the Holy See, the conduct of which is founded on international legal and moral principles.
3. The Holy See's third choice in contributing to the stability of the Middle East is northing less than the promotion of inter-religious dialogue with the Jews and Muslims. As far as the Holy See is concerned this dialogue is founded on the respect that the three religions have for one another. This is of importance not only for the communities of believers themselves, but for society and for the world too: faith in God can only be a source of concord, rather than friction. All "religious fundamentalism", all use of religion to justify acts of discrimination or violence are perversions of religion and deserve absolute condemnation. What the Holy See has always tried to make understood to its partners in dialogue is that if God is one, this requires that all should consider themselves brothers. And when you truly experience such brotherhood you are more inclined to benevolence, to helping each other, to respect, to forgive and to cooperate. Believers thus have a special responsibility for peace building. Religious leaders should make one of their main priorities the promotion of an authentic "pedagogy for peace":
- never consider the other person an enemy to attack or someone to convert;
- consider the other person a travelling companion, a partner with whom you can build a society and a world in which it is good to live.
Such an option, in that part of the world, is of universal importance, in as much as the three monotheistic religions, which have their historical roots in the Middle East, have followers throughout the whole world and in every society.
The Holy Land, as the Popes love to call the Middle East, should be a sort of workshop for inter-religious dialogue, with Jerusalem, the Holy City par excellence, as its symbol. This explains why, and with what perseverance and intensity, since 1947, the Popes have made themselves the defenders of the preservation of the unique and sacred character of that City.
Still today two peoples claim sovereignty over Jerusalem, and the faithful of three religions, both on the spot and throughout the world, look to it as their spiritual home. A political solution has certainly to be/bund within the framework of bilateral negotiations, but without forgetting, for all that, the sacred reality which the City enshrines. So it is that the Holy See, which has no direct technical competence or ambition whatsoever to intervene in the territorial dispute dividing the two peoples, certainly cannot fail to concern itself with the safeguarding of the sacred and cultural dimension of the Holy Places of the three religions. In its view, this is a universal cause which therefore requires that the entire international community should act as guarantor. The Holy See therefore strictly favours "a special internationally guaranteed statute" for the most sacred areas of the City, in order in the future to preserve and protect the identity of the Holy City in its entirety and in every aspect:
- the historical, material, religious and cultural characteristics;
- the equality of rights and treatment for those belonging to the three religious communities, in the context of the freedom of their spiritual, cultural, civic and economic activities;
- the rights of freedom of religion and worship for all, and of access to the shrines for residents and pilgrims alike, whether from the Holy Land itself or from other parts of the world.
All this supposes also that these shrines might always remain at the centre of living and active religious communities, where these communities and their individual members have the possibility of fully enjoying their basic human rights and of maintaining their cultural identity.
This request of the Holy See regards, first and foremost, the most religiously significant part of the City, namely the Old City. But such a formula would have to be extended to other shrines outside the Old City and beyond Greater Jerusalem, in Israel as well as in the West Bank.
Perhaps you now have a better understanding of the sense of the words of Pope John Paul II, when in his Apostolic Letter "Redemptionis Anno" of April 20, 1984 he wrote: "Jerusalem stands out as a symbol of coming together, of union, and of universal peace for the human family". Or yet again his words addressed to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on 11 January 1992: "What a blessing it would be if this Holy Land, where God spoke and Jesus walked, could become a special place for encounter and prayer for peoples, if this Holy City of Jerusalem could be a sign and instrument of peace and reconciliation"!
The time has come to draw my words to a conclusion.
The Arab Middle East, as a zone of convergence of great civilisations, religions and complex problems, defies easy understanding by anyone.
The recent diplomatic activity of the Holy See in that part of the world has never put forward technical solutions to the divergent politics, which have brought into such tragic conflict peoples who, sharing a common geography, history and faith in the one God, should be brothers. What the Popes and their collaborators have tried to do is to be a kind of "voice of conscience" (which may perhaps be the best definition of papal diplomacy!) How was this achieved?
- by telling everyone that the Holy See considers nobody its enemy;
- by recalling the demands of law to the leaders of society;
- by seeking to convince each people that inconsistency, violence, religious fanaticism and ideology can never lead to harmony and prosperity. It has to be admitted that this option has not been easy for the Holy See. Above all, because dialogue with Islam has been problematic for various reasons: religious extremism which is certainly a perversion of Islam, but which exists and still continues to this day to cause much harm; the interpretation of the concept of "human rights" within certain Muslim circles has prevented the Muslim world from protecting them in their fullness, despite, for example, a convergence of opinion with Christianity as regards the respect due to human life and the family.
It must also be recognized that relations between the Holy See and the Jewish world -above all with the State of Israel - have hardly been helped by the failure to resolve the Palestinian problem, the lack of respect for certain UN Security Council Resolutions and duly concluded international Agreements, without forgetting the annexation by force of a part of the City of Jerusalem.
On a happier note, despite the many stumbling-blocks, an institutional dialogue does exist between the Holy See and all the peoples of the region: diplomatic relations with many States and official relations with the PLO. The Holy See is frequently requested to offer help, is listened to within the international bodies, and all this simply in efforts to be helpful, without abdicating its specific nature as a "moral power"; the strategy is very simple: to invite each one to engage in dialogue, to negotiate and to respect the dignity of individuals and peoples. Furthermore, the Holy See has never forgotten the Christian communities, often alas held hostage by internal struggles and international conflicts.
All this demonstrates, it seems to me, the importance of ethics in international relations. That is why the Holy See continues to hope that the day will come when believers, Jews, Christians and Muslims, will unite their voices, so that the Middle East, where the majority of us has our spiritual roots, may finally find reconciliation and that all the peoples may live and move forward together in the sight of God. Thus, the vision of an ancient prophet of those lands where God chose to meet with humanity will be fulfilled: "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).
Washington, 10 March 1999
Press Release from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Confiscation or lands in the area of Bethlehem
1. The Israeli Authorities have decided to confiscate land In the area of Bethlehem, on the site. called “Abu Ghneim", in the South East of Bethlehem. This Site will be connected with Jerusalem, by a highway, through more land to be confiscated in Beth Sahour, Bethlehem and up the hill in Beit-Jala.
2. The confiscation of any land, in the Palestinian territories, can only provoke opposition and endanger the peace process. We cannot understand such contradictory measures: from one side Palestinians are requested to make paece, on the other side, their lands are confiscated. These confiscations raise in all hearts frustration and despair and are one of the main factors which is exploited by extremists and which lead to more violence. Again, all, people and authorities, want violence to disappear once and for all; but at the same time, measures are taken by the responsible authorities to give more fuel to extremists and to violence.
3. Lands to be conflscated in the area of Bethlehem belong almost in their totality to Christians. It is strange that this confiscation takes place just at the beginning of the Holy Week, on the eve of Palm Sunday, and at the approach of our Paschal feasts. Have the Israeli Authorities the intention to reduce the Christian presence and to invite christians to emigrate, by confiscating their lands?
We do not think so. Therefore we ask Israeli Authoritics to reconsider their decision and to stop these confiscations, in order to build a solid peace and security for all, Israelis and Palestinians, and in order to secure the presence of christians in their lands and In their feasts.
Jerusalem, Palm Sunday: March 30th, 1996
Could you, please, see things from the right point of view.
The Chuch is not anti-Jewish, the Church is not anti-semite, the Chuch is not pro-Arab, Arabs are semites as well; the Chuch is for JUSTICE and TRUTH. Facts on the ground are more eloquent that ideas and clamins and slogans.
So please, pray with us, take the GOOD STAND and defend JUSTICE and TRUTH.
God bless you, Rev. Labib Kobti