An international delegation of Catholic Bishops from the Holy Land Co-ordination group have ended their annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land by urging political leaders to defend human dignity of all in the Holy Land, especially in Gaza. The ongoing conflict in the Holy Land assaults the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis but said the "desperation" of the "suffering people in Gaza" was of special concern, the Vatican Radio reported on Thursday, citing a statement by the Bishops at the end of their five-day visit.
"We came to pray with and support the Christian community and to promote peace and human dignity in this divided land," according to the Statement of the Co-ordination of Bishops' Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land.
"We witnessed the tragic consequences of the failure of both local and international politicians to advance peace. Human dignity is given by God and is absolute. "The ongoing conflict assaults the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis, but in a particular way our commitment to the poor calls us to lift up the suffering people in Gaza," the statement said. "A year ago, we called Gaza "a man-made disaster, a shocking scandal, an injustice that cries out to the human community for a resolution." In the wake of the terrible destruction caused by last year's war, our presence reminded the small Christian community that they are not forgotten.
"Many tens of thousands of families in Gaza lack adequate shelter. In the latest freezing weather, at least two infants died of exposure. "The continuing blockade dramatically impedes rebuilding and contributes to desperation that undermines Israelis' legitimate hope for security. It also creates intolerable levels of unemployment and pushes ordinary people into deeper poverty. "Despite the devastation, the appalling scenes of destruction we saw, and the fears of another war we heard, hope is alive in Gaza. We saw families resolutely rebuilding their lives. "We witnessed a small Christian community that has enormous faith. We admired the tenacity of many volunteers. "We visited Holy Family School where Muslims and Christians study and play together in harmony. We met with the Holy Rosary Sisters, who true to their co-foundress Marie-Alphonsine, to be canonized a saint this year by Pope Francis, exercise a prophetic ministry of education," it went on. "We celebrated Mass with the Sisters of the Bethlehem Carmel. Their foundress Mariam Baouardy, another Palestinian whose life testifies to the holiness that still emanates from this Land, also will be canonized. "Political leaders must defend the human dignity of the people in Gaza. One student poignantly told us that he received an email during the war asking if he needed food or clothing or shelter. "Without bitterness, he replied that what he needed was dignity. People of good will on both sides of the conflict want the same thing, a dignified life worthy of the human person.
"In the coming months we will continue to oppose the building of the proposed wall in the Cremisan Valley. It would result in the loss of the lands and livelihoods of many Christian families. "This situation is tragically a microcosm of the reality of the land issue. We will also continue to oppose expansion of the settlement program, illegal under international law, which we witnessed acutely in Hebron. Its impact on the freedom of movement of Palestinians and the confiscation of lands is simply unjust.
"After the failed negotiations and ensuing violence of 2014, we urge public officials to be creative, to take new approaches, to build bridges, not walls. "We must humanize the conflict by fostering more interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. Peace will only come when all parties respect the fact that the Holy Land is sacred to three faiths and home to two peoples.
"The path to peace demands respect for the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. Our prayer nurtures the hope that makes peace possible. "We call on all Christians to pray for the Jews, Christians and Muslims of this Land we call Holy," the statement concluded. The signatories include Bishop Stephen Ackermann - Germany, Archbishop Stephen Brislin - South Africa, Bishop Raymond Browne - Ireland, Bishop Peter Burcher - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Bishop Oscar Cantu - the United States, Bishop Christopher Chessun - Church of England, Bishop Michel Dubost - France, Archbishop Ricardo Fontana - Italy, Bishop Lionel Gendron - Canada, Bishop Felix Gmur - Switzerland, Archbishop Patrick Kelly - England and Wales, Bishop William Kenney -England and Wales, and Archbishop Joan Enric Vives - Spain