The Catholic position on the Issue of the Middle East and Jerusalem

Fr. Labib Kobti

Septemebr 19, 1997

Some people are attacking the Catholic Church ignoring the facts that the Chuch had taken a clean and fair position on behalf of *TRUTH, JUSTICE AND PEACE* for the sake of the Israeli-Palestinian issues.

A- I need, with respect to all my friends, to mention between others this position of the Vatican that you can find on the Website in full with other statements. I am just quoting from The Vatican sources May 1996:" 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. 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.

- 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)...."

See website for more about that suject under the Vatican and the Middle East

B- As I need to quote also the position of the Catholic Church in Jerusalem. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem at the ADC 14th National Convention "Organizing is Power" June 14th , 1997 said:

"Despite its political and military unification, Jerusalem today is divided. The two peoples are deeply separated by the conflict, obvious in the faces and hearts of both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians- Therefore the question to be asked is: How to reunify Jerusalem today? As geography, as shrines, holy places and stones, Jerusalem is important, but the living people in it, Palestinians and Israelis, are just as important. Its geographical unity is important, but the human unity of its two peoples is just as important. Today, this human unity does not exist. Therefore the question is: How to realize this human unity? Every polifical formulation, if it is to last and take effect for a long future, must take the living people into consideration. How to reunify Jerusalem? By recognition of the rights of both peoples in it and through shared government of the city. The Israeli part will be Israeli; the Palestinian part will be Palestinian. The two parts can be geographically and politically separated if the hearts of the two peoples and the believers of the three religions are unified. The two parts can also be politically united through a formula of shared administration: one city, two flags and two capitals, as is already said by some. Mutual recognition and sharing, these are two main elements on the way to returning unity to Jerusalem, and so to achieve peace and reconciliation between its two peoples and three religions."

For more go to the website under Latin Patriarchate

C- As well I need to quote the US Catholic Position:

a- A LETTER TO PRESIDENT CLINTON ON MARCH 5th, 1995, sent by Cardinal Keeler with 7 other US Christianb leaders, "We come to you because developments on the ground in the Jerusalem area leave less and less for negotiation the last phase of the peace process.

-In contravention of international law, more and more land is being taken out of Palestinian hands and placed under Israeli control by annexation, expropriation and private purchases, often coercive or of questionable legality.

-Israeli planning for "Greater Jerusalem" is an open secret. And,

-Israel's assertion that Jerusalem will remain the "eternal and undivided capital of Israel" is widely interpreted as a claim of exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the city that pre-empts genuine negotiation.

We are concerned:

-That the administration is backing away from long-term U.S. policy that East Jerusalem is subject to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 regarding territories occupied by Israeli armed forces in 1967.

-That the administration is failing to recognize and support Palestinian rights and interests in Jerusalem.

-That the administration is not using its considerable influence to halt Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and continuing expansion into Palestinian areas.

It is our conviction, Mr. President, that a resolution of the question of Jerusalem has the potential for advancing cooperation between the three Abrahamic faiths or sowing the seeds of new religious conflicts between Muslims, Jews and Christians.

The future of Jerusalem must not be pre-empted by the actions of one party. Only a negotiated agreement that respects the human and political rights of Palestinians and Israelis as well as the three religious communities can lead to a lasting peace. The goal of a "warm peace" between Israel and its Arab neighbors can only be achieved in the context of a shared city where the interests of all parties are respected.

In view of the deteriorating conditions on the ground and the central importance of this issue to the peace process, we urge you to use your good offices to see that the negotiators take up the question of Jerusalem as soon as possible and that the position of the United States fully reflects the concerns expressed in this statement."

b- A LETTER TO SECRETARY OF STATE Madeleine Albright, March 21, 1997, by the Chairman of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Maccarrick "I urge you to do all in your power to have the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority commit thernselves to refrain from all actions, especially in relation to Jerusalem, which pre-empt the final status talks and insist that they engage in genuine and just negotiations with one another.

The U.S. veto of the Security Council resolution on Har Homa and your recent reticence on the matter raises questions about the US. role as a honest broker in the peace process.

Unless the U.S. leads in establishing genuine respect for the Interests of both sides, no negotiation can expect to result in a just and lasting peace.

In this context1 I would recall to your attention the position of the Holy See on the question of Jerusalern as a matter that needs the serious consideration of the United States government:.

The Holy See (The Vatican) calls for

(1) an equitable solution based on negotiation, in which (2) the parties acknowledge the universal religious significance of Jerusalem (3) provide guarantees for the rights of the three religious comnunities in the Holy City on the same level and (4) further assures those rights with wider international agreement. The NCCI /USCC fully shares the Holy See' sposition on this vital matter.

The Catholic church in the United States has been a defender of the State of Israel, an advocate of a PalestInian homeland, and a firm supporter of the peace process. I write you in the hope that the United States government, as tha major sponsor of the peace process, will find a way to preseve a just negotiation as a means toward a just and stable peace.

In these terrible days off renewed violence, increased tension and growing conflict, we urge the United States not only to condemn terror which it must, but also to act unequivocly and clearly to revive the peace process and to oppose actions by any of the parties which undermine the essential search for a just and lasting peace in the land believers call "holy" Clear and principled U.S leadership tar a just peace is essential in these very difficrult days" You can find of course more on the website when you go to US Catholics.

We are proud of the position of our Catholic Church.

With respect and love,

Fr. Labib Kobti