Holy Land Coordination Bishops Reaffirm Appeal for Justice in Cremisan Valley

International Bishops Say Planned Building of Israeli Security Wall Must Be Reviewed, Set Aside

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The bishops of the Holy Land Coordination are condemning the planned building of an Israeli security wall which would ruin the livelihoods of many of the region’s families.

According to Fides, upon visiting the Cremisan Valley on Tuesday, in the midst of their visits to Palestine and Israel, the 16 international bishops of the Coordination repeated that the building of this wall–which has been at the center of a long legal dispute between the owners of the land and the Israeli authorities–must be reconsidered.

The wall threatens the livelihoods of more than 50 Christian Palestinian families, given that 58 owners of agricultural land are threatened by the continuation of this project.

The Holy Land Coordination is comprised of bishops from North America, Europe, and South Africa who have been meeting from Jan. 11-15 in Gaza to discuss how to support the Holy Land’s Christian communities.

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales organized the first meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land, also known as the Holy Land Coordination, in 1998, at the invitation of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

During this visit, Fr. Faisal Hijazin, pastor of Beit Jala, welcomed the bishops. They all exchanged views with lawyer Raffoul al-Mutawakkil of the Society of St. Yves, a body for the protection of human rights connected to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and with some of the landowners threatened by the project.

In addition, the projected route of the security wall in the Cremnisan valley would jeopardize the spiritual and educational work carried out by two Salesian religious institutes.

Last year, at the end of January, the Holy Land Coordination launched an appeal for «justice in the Cremisan valley» and the necessity to affirm the need to set aside or review the project.

In their appeal, the bishops wrote: «We recognize the right of Israel to security and secure borders.» They reiterated, however, that the route of the wall falls largely on Palestinian territory and clearly diverges from the Green Line.

The Green Line is the internationally recognized boundary line, which separates Israel and the Palestinian territories conquered in the Six Day War in 1967.

The bishops stressed that even this was defined as illegal by the international Court of Justice.

The bishops taking part in this year’s gathering are: Bishop Declan Lang, England & Wales (chair); Archbishop Ricardo Fontana, Italy; Archbishop Joan Vives, Spain, Archbishop Patrick Kelly, England & Wales; Archbishop Stephen Brislin, South Africa; Bishop Michel Dubost, France; Bishop Oscar Cantu, United States; Bishop Lionel Gendron, Canada; Bishop William Kenney, England & Wales; Bishop Stephen Ackermann, Germany; Bishop Thomas Renz, Germany; Bishop Raymond Browne, Ireland; Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Ireland; Bishop Peter Burcher, Scandinavia; Bishop Felix Gmur, Switzerland; Bishop Christopher Chessun, Church of England.

Also during the visit, the participating bishops will meet with His Beatitude Patriarch Twal of Jerusalem and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Lanzarotto.  

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