Come to the Holy Land, Bishops Say

American, European Prelates Urge Support for Mideast

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JERUSALEM, JAN. 15, 2009 ( Bishops who visited the Middle East in support of the Church there have a final message at the end of their stay: «Do not be afraid. Come as pilgrims to the Holy Land.»

This was part of the appeal made in a statement today from nine bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, a group of American and European prelates who make an annual visit to the Middle East.

In their statement, «Stop the Violence! Stop the Killing! Start to Build Peace,» the bishops address the international community, the members of their own Churches, and the faithful of the Holy Land.

«There can be no peace unless people believe in peace,» the prelates wrote. «There can be no security unless there is security for all. There can be no justice unless there is justice for everyone in this land. Faith gives us hope that justice, peace and forgiveness are possible — a conviction shared by our hosts, His Beatitude Fouad Twal and the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.»

«We are pastors, not political leaders,» the bishops acknowledged, «but the religious voice is vital to the search for peace. […] The message of the Prince of Peace, born in this land, reminds us that peace is possible. […] The darkness of this time will give way to light.»

The prelates urged the international community to work with Israelis and Palestinians to stop the violence in Gaza.

«With one voice press Israelis and Palestinians to build a just peace with security for Israel and a viable state for Palestinians,» they pleaded.

Addressing Americans and Europeans from their own Churches, they said: «Intensify your prayer for the welfare of the Mother Church and the peace of Jerusalem. Do not be afraid. Come as pilgrims to the Holy Land and meet the living Christian communities here. Join us in persuading our governments to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a high priority.»

Finally, to the Christians of the Holy Land, the bishops affirmed: «We see in you the suffering face of Christ who lost everything for our sake. You are not alone. We are one family, a worldwide communion in Christ. We hear your cries as you suffer alongside your brothers and sisters in the wider community. We assure you of our love, our prayer and our continued solidarity.»

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