The US Secretary of State is aware of the power of faith in the Middle East peace process and is attentive to the concerns of Holy Land Christians in ending the conflict, an American State Department official has said.
During a meeting with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, on Monday, Shaun A. Casey also said Secretary of State John Kerry hopes the framework of a peace agreement will be in place before the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land at the end of May.
Casey is a special advisor on faith-based community initiatives at the State Department, an office Kerry set up in August 2013 aimed at renewing and strengthening the role of religious communities in US foreign policy.
Kerry met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for further talks in Paris on Wednesday. The peace process, which restarted last July, is scheduled to last up to nine months, with the aim to have an agreement in place by mid-2014.
At Monday’s meeting in Jerusalem, Casey stressed that the protection of Christians, the freedom of worship and access to the holy places of the Holy Land, are at the heart of the concerns of the Holy See and the United States.
Patriarch Twal praised John Kerry for his courage and his tenacity in the peace process and welcomed the establishment of the faith-based initiatives office whose role is said to be “crucial” in the peace process. “We cannot indeed claim to find a solution without taking into account the spiritual dimension of this land. It is a Holy Land, as its name implies”, the Patriarch stressed.
Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, who also attended the meeting, raised the humanitarian problem of thousands of families divided by separation wall and hoped families would be reunited in time for the Pope’s visit.
The Patriarch stressed that the Pope comes first “as a man of prayer” but will nevertheless “confirm the Christian people, a minority in the Holy Land, in faith, in an ecumenical spirit and interfaith dimension.”
“The whole world will be watching us through the media and we are delighted because we believe in the power of prayer,” the Patriarch said. He said about four thousand journalists are expected for the occasion.