When they were blocked from entering Gaza in 2015 to meet with the Christian community there, a delegation of Catholic Bishops from around the world did a spontaneous “pray-in” in front of the checkpoint. After a 6 hour wait, embarrassed Israeli officials allowed the Bishops to enter. Powerful voices in the Catholic Church are speaking out about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Read more.
“For fifty years, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have languished under occupation, violating the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis. This is a scandal to which we must never become accustomed.” This is the opening sentence of a recent declaration by the Coordination of Bishops’ Conferences, of the Catholic Church “As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognize our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action,” continues the document.
Officially entitled “The Holy Land Co-ordination”, the group is comprised of bishops from across Europe, North America and South Africa. It was established at the end of the 20th century at the invitation of the Holy See with the aim of visiting and supporting the Holy Land’s local Christian communities.The 12 member group includes Canada’s Bishop Lionel Gendron.
“Since we began these annual visits, we have seen that the occupation causes suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis”, commented Bishop Gendron a few days ago after returning from his most recent trip.
Significantly, the findings of the report were reinforced by a strong editorial in The Catholic Register, the most important Catholic publication in Canada.
The Catholic Church appears to be of two minds on the Israel/Palestine question. Powerful conservative voices are still of the opinion that the Church should not get involved in the struggle for human rights in the Holy Land. However, church opinion does appear to be evolving on the issue and the current Holy Father has shown more concern for the Palestinians than his predecessors did.
While many Catholic lay and clergy have promoted human rights for people around the world who live under situations of injustice and oppression, the work of the Coordination will nudge the official church toward increasingly vocal support of human rights for Palestinians.
“Raise the issue, but lower the temperature”
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