Western Bishops Converge in Jerusalem

Aiming to Help Christians in Holy Land

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JERUSALEM, JAN. 23, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Bishops from Europe and North America are meeting here through Thursday to study how Catholic communities can help Christians in the Holy Land.

The four-day assembly, called by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, follows in the wake of the Dec. 13 meeting of worldwide Catholic leaders at the Vatican. That meeting, convoked by John Paul II, focused on «The Future of Christians in the Holy Land.»

«Palestinian Christians now form no more than 2% of the population in Israel and the Palestinian territories,» a press statement issued by the patriarchate explains. «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 are discussing, with 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 toward a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians,» the press statement adds. «In doing so they will be one with the universal Church in its efforts to achieve reconciliation and an end to violence and occupation.»

It continues: «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 U.S. and Canadian episcopal 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 lay people, as well as with political leaders,» the patriarchate explained. «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 area, the statement concludes.

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