Theologians in Holy Lands See Reconciliation as a Catholic Vocation

Document of Commission in Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM, DEC. 7, 2003 ( A document of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem states that the vocation of Catholics in the Holy Land is reconciliation.

The text, prepared by the diocesan Theological Commission, addresses three issues: «violence and terrorism, our relations with the Jewish people in the Holy Land, and our relations with the Muslims in the Holy Land.»

Analyzing the topic of violence, the commission of Catholic theologians, presided over by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, states: «We have always condemned and we continue to condemn all acts of violence against individuals and society.»

«We have condemned and we continue to condemn especially terrorism, acts of extreme violence, often organized, which are intended to injure and kill the innocent in order that such terrorism yield reluctant support for one’s cause,» it says.

«In the case of terrorism,» it adds, «there are two guilty parties: first, those who carry out such action, those who plan and support them, and second, those who create situations of injustice which provoke terrorism.»

«God is always calling the disciples of Jesus Christ to be a community of reconciliation,» the Catholic theologians clarify. «We are called to be the prophetic bearers of the good news of peace to those far away and those close at hand. We accomplish this not through acts of violence but through concrete gestures of peacemaking, which oppose a culture of death and contribute to a culture of life.»

In the second place, the document analyzes relations with Jews in the state of Israel. It recalls that the Church shares with the Jewish people the roots of faith of the Old Testament. «With the entire Church, we regret the attitudes of contempt, the conflicts and the hostility that have marked the history of Jewish-Christian relations,» the theologians state.

The great challenge that Christians face in the Holy Land, which in the vast majority is Arab in origin, is of coexistence with their elder Jewish brothers, as the state of Israel and the Arab world have been in conflict since 1948.

«As Church, we witness the continued Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands and the bloody violence between the two peoples,» the Catholic theologians affirm. «Together with all men and women of peace and good will, including many Israeli and Palestinian Muslims, Christians and Jews, we are called to be both a voice of truth and a healing presence.»

«The worldwide Catholic Church teaches that dialogue with the Jewish people is distinct from the political options adopted by the state of Israel,» they clarify. «The existence of the state of Israel and its political options should be envisaged not in a perspective which is itself religious but in their reference to the common principles of international law.»

«We are already engaged in searching out our Jewish brothers and sisters in an exciting dialogue from our proper common context — that of a land sadly torn by war and violence,» they say.

The text also analyzes relations between Christians and Muslims, a coexistence governed by two principles: «First, all of us who are Arabs, whether Christian or Muslim, belong to one people, sharing a long history, a language, a culture and a society.»

«Second, as Christian Arabs, we are called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ in Arab and Muslim society. We are called likewise, to be witnesses in Jewish Israeli society too,» the Catholic theologians add.

Although they recognize that in daily life relations between Christians and Muslims «are generally good,» they point out the difficulties such as «mutual ignorance» and a trend toward «Islamization among certain political movements, which endangers not only Christians but also many Muslims who desire an open society.»

«When Islamization constitutes an infringement on the liberty of Christians, we must insist that our identity and our religious liberty be respected,» the theologians state.

«In this situation, we seek to help our Arab faithful, who are the majority of our flock, in integrating and living the complexity of their identity as Christians, as Arabs and as citizens, in Jordan, Palestine and Israel,» the document continues.

«The fact that Christians are statistically a small community does not, in any way, condemn them to irrelevance or to despair,» the document adds. «We encourage all our faithful to take their rightful place in public life and to help build up society in all its domains.»

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