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Bishops call for Israeli withdrawal

Australia's Catholic Bishops have called for the occupation of any part of the Palestinian territories by Israelis to cease.

In a statement issued by the president of the conference and Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Francis Carroll, the bishops said it was essential for Israel to withdraw if peace were to return to the region.

The bishops condemned silence or inaction by any country as a form of complicity.

Men and women of religion had not been silent during these tragic months. ''Many appeals and protests for an end to the hostilities have come from religious leaders of all faiths,'' the bishops said. ''In our own Church, the lead has come from Pope John Paul II, who recently sent his own envoy, Cardinal Etchegaray, to the Holy Land in the hope that his intervention might contribute to a peaceful outcome.''

The bishops were appalled by the escalation of violence, by the suffering inflicted on innocent people by both sides, by the violation of sacred places, in particular the Church of the Nativity, and by the wanton destruction of property.

They supported United Nations resolutions calling for a cease-fire and for the presence in the area of international monitors or peacekeepers. Some appeals had been made jointly by representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic religions.

''We are thankful that this has been the case in Australia, where very good relations exist between leaders and members of the three faiths,'' they said. ''At the same time, we deplore the occasional expression of anti-religious hatred by a few misguided people.

Canberra Times

16 May 2002