Challenge of Peace Is to Build Trust, Say Bishops of Holy Land

Conclusion of Meeting Held in Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM, JUNE 8, 2003 ( Catholic bishops in the Holy Land say the commitments made at the Aqaba summit must be followed by moves «that will allow the populations to reconstruct a climate of trust and tolerance necessary for peace.»

At a meeting Thursday in Jerusalem, presided over by Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah, a dozen bishops of various rites discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Father Pierre Grech, secretary-general of the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Region, said that the bishops were «cautiously optimistic,» justifying their attitude because of «the direct interest of the United States in the objectives of the ‘road map.’ Now, what is necessary is to reconstruct the trust of the two peoples.»

Among its objectives, the so-called road map, sponsored by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The idea was promoted on Wednesday at the Aqaba, Jordan, meeting, which was attended by U.S. President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The latter is also known as Abu Mazen.

«Peace is not just built with the signing of treaties, but also with the closeness of peoples,» Father Grech said. «The commitments assumed by both leaders might be a beginning.»

«People want to go back to work, go to school, live and move in peace,» the priest told Vatican Radio. «This means, for example, to reopen gradually and with all due caution the Israeli borders. To allow students to return to their studies would be a very important sign.»

To dismantle the settlements, demilitarize the intifada, and recognize bilaterally the right to exist are important commitments that must be accompanied by concrete gestures for the life of the region’s inhabitants, Father Grech stressed.

Hope has revived «with the handshake between Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen, but we must act with prudence and patience,» Father Grech concluded.

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