Church leaders distressed by Palestinian suffering
Retired Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Francis Carroll and other Australian church leaders were concerned by the suffering of Palestinians that they witnessed during their recent visit to Israel-Palestine.
Comprising nine Australian Church leaders, the delegation embarked on the visit in an effort to express friendship and support for Christians and meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders along with representatives from the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
The visit was also aimed at helping Australians understand and respond to the issues dogging the Holy Land.
The delegation stated they felt privileged to visit Palestine and Israel and felt welcome and safe, however were distressed by the suffering and fear of the Palestinian people under occupation by Israel.
"We saw and heard evidence of systematic harassment, physical and psychological oppression, widespread unemployment, poverty, and economic deprivation, resulting directly or indirectly from Israeli military occupation of the West Bank," the delegation wrote in a statement.
"Their suffering compels us to respond, and we assure Palestinians of our compassion and concern.
"We condemn all acts of terrorism and assure Israelis of our compassion and concern."
The delegation added they recognised the complexity of of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and affirmed the right of both Israel and Palestine to autonomy, security and self-determination.
"We ask Australian Churches to pray for a just and lasting peace for Jerusalem and the Holy Land and encourage the Australian Government to take more action to support a just and lasting peace for Israel and Palestine."
Christians will keep their hold on the Holy Land
A Church official has affirmed Christians will hold onto the Holy Land "with our fingernails" despite political tensions and economic challenges.
Catholic News Service reports that Head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa said the number of Christians in the Palestinian territories continues to plummet.
"There are about 120,000 Christians left in Israel and the Palestinian territories; about half of them are Catholic and the vast majority are Palestinians," Fr Pizzaballa said.
"The Catholic schools, especially in the Palestinian territories, are a key resource not only for educating children, but also for keeping families rooted in their faith and for promoting peaceful coexistence between Catholics and Muslims," he said.
Fr Pizzaballa said while Israelis "do not need our schools or hospitals" dialogue is equally important.
Statement by Australian Church Leaders (18/12/07)
Church official says Christians will keep their hold on the Holy Land (Catholic News Service 18/12/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Council of Churches in Australia
Leaders winding up Palestine-Israel interfaith visit (CathNews 11/12/07)
Pope prays wisdom will fuel mid-east peace (CathNews 26/11/07)
International Church Action for Peace in Palestine & Israel (CathNews 12/03/06)
Vatican official has high hopes for Middle East Peace Summit (CathNews 0/06/03)
Bethlehem faces darkest hour, mayor says in Christmas message (CathNews 13/12/06)
Pope spells out Mideast peace wish list (CathNews 03/06/03)
Vatican asks Israel to get serious about peace efforts (CathNews 15/07/03)
19 Dec 2007