Bishops Renew Pledge to Support “5th Gospel”

Affirm Holy Land Must Have Christian Communities

JERUSALEM, JAN. 13, 2011 ( The international group of bishops that forms the Holy Land Coordination has concluded its annual meeting in Jerusalem, renewing the pledge to support Christian communities in the land known as the Fifth Gospel. 

A closing statement today summarized the bishops’ four-day trip, which, the prelates explained, had a particular emphasis this year on meeting with all Christian confessions. 

The coordination group, including bishops from Canada, England and Wales, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States, was set up in Jerusalem in 1998 at the request of the Holy See. It is organized by the bishops’ conference of England and Wales. 

The statement affirmed that the bishops found encouragement in reflecting on this text from Benedict XVI: “The more we appreciate the universality and the uniqueness of Christ’s person, the more we look with gratitude to that land where Jesus was born, where he lived and where he gave his life for us. The stones on which our Redeemer walked are still charged with his memory and continue to ‘cry out’ the Good News.

“For this reason, the Synod Fathers recalled the felicitous phrase which speaks of the Holy Land as ‘the Fifth Gospel’. How important it is that in these places there be Christian communities, notwithstanding any number of hardships! The Synod of Bishops expressed profound closeness to all those Christians who dwell in the land of Jesus and bear witness to their faith in the Risen One.”

The bishops promised continued prayer for the Holy Land and they encouraged pilgrims to visit “the land where Jesus walked and the people continue to live out their faith.”


The prelates’ statement made specific reference to ongoing difficulties in obtaining visas. 

“Despite some tangible improvements in the visa allocation, we have once again been made painfully aware of the frustration felt by some Catholic clergy and religious whose daily tasks are made difficult by restrictions on their movement,” they wrote. “Our brother bishops have told us with sadness that the Pope’s words during his visit in 2009 to allow ease of movement for Catholic clergy and religious seem to have gone unheard.” 

In this context, the Holy Land Coordination urged a conclusion to Holy See-Israel negotiations. And they added: “We have also been made aware of the suffering of those people whose marriages are put under enormous strain by the demands of ‘security’ and religious differences, by individuals and communities whose land and property has been damaged or taken from them, including by the route and construction of the wall, and by the people whose lives are made so difficult by the situation where they live in Gaza.” 

The statement acknowledged “improvements in some areas” — “that more Palestinians are returning than leaving,” but, they added, “we are deeply concerned at too many cases where people’s dignity is ignored or insulted.” 

“We will continue to work for a lasting peace by supporting a genuine two state solution with security and recognition for the state and people of Israel and a viable and independent state for Palestinians,” the coordination group pledged. “We will work for a future where the lives, dignity and rights of both Palestinians and Israelis are protected and respected.” 

The prelates singled out specific groups with greater responsibility for peace, including religious and government leaders, teachers and journalists. 

They concluded with the assurance of this prayer: “We pray that the Lord may indeed give strength to his people and bless his people, all his people, with peace, especially in the land we all call holy.” 

The statement is signed by seven prelates and notes that two members of the Holy Land Coordination had to return early. One of those is Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, who returned to his home diocese to handle the tragedy that occurred there Saturday when six people died in an assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. 

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