Holy Land Christian leaders call for "open" Jerusalem

Slamming the impact of walls recently erected by the Israeli government, Catholic and other Christian leaders in Israel and Palestine have called for a renewed effort to reach agreement on a special status for Jerusalem as an "open city" as part of an effort for a definite and just peace.

Catholic Online reports Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem together with other Catholic bishops and Franciscan Fr Pier Battista Pizzaballa, who is in charge of Christian sites in Holy Land have joined with other Christian leaders to denounce the erection of the walls which deny access to "many of our faithful ... from the precincts of the holy city".

In their statement entitled "Status of Jerusalem", the Christian leaders called on Palestinian and Israeli government leaders to begin negotiations and draw upon "needed international collaboration" to assure the rights of "two people and three religions ... to live together in harmony, respect, mutual acceptance and cooperation".

Other religious leaders signing the statement represented Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Episcopal and Lutheran Evangelical churches in Jerusalem.

"Once more, we have experienced another period of deadly violence in the war in South Lebanon. We still face more death and demolition in Gaza, and more insecurity in the Israeli society," the leaders say in their statement.

"Surrounded by walls, Jerusalem is no longer at the center and is no long the heart of life as she should be."

"It is high time to start a serious effort from all parts for a total definitive and just peace," the statement continues. "Moreover, we believe that peace must begin in this holy city of Jerusalem."

"In this city," they say, "in which God chose to speak to humanity and to reconcile peoples with himself and among themselves, we raise our voices to say that the paths, followed up till now, have not brought about the pacification of the city and have not reassured normal life for her inhabitants."

"The political leaders must search for a new vision as well as for new means."

"For Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jerusalem is a high place of revelation and of God's encounter with humanity. That is why we cannot remain indifferent to her fate nor remain silent in the face of her sufferings," the statement continues.

Jerusalem, by virtue of being a "city of two peoples and three religions", has a unique character, the leaders said.

"Not only historical memories and sacred places of pilgrimage, but also living communities of believers - Jews, Christians and Muslims - make the city of Jerusalem beloved and unique for each one of the three monotheistic faiths.

"Holy places and living human communities are inseparable."

They say the special status of Jerusalem requires recognition of the right of freedom of worship and conscience for both individuals and religious communities, equality of all inhabitants before the law, property rights, and "free access" as an "open city" for all "at all times, whether in peace or in war".

Grant special 'open' status to Jerusalem to build just peace, Holy Land church leaders say (Catholic Online, 11/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Jerusalem (Wikipedia)
Custos of the Holy Land

New Gaza settlement tenders concern Caritas Jerusalem (CathNews, 8/9/06)
Pope sees "positive signs" for Holy Land (CathNews, 24/6/05)
Pope recalled for building bridge with Jews and Israel (CathNews 4/4/05)
Vatican shares artifacts with Israel (CathNews 11/1/05)
Vatican official on solidarity visit to Jerusalem (CathNews 15/4/04)
Vatican condemns Hamas leader assassination (CathNews 23/3/04)
Pope meets Israeli foreign minister (CathNews 12/12/03)
Israel Govt silence follows Pope criticism of security wall (CathNews 19/11/03)

12 Oct 2006