Last year at a meeting between Bishops from the Holy Land Co-ordination and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State Cardinal Bertone renewed the mandate and thanked the Holy Land Co-ordination for its vital work in supporting the Church in the Holy Land.
The Holy Land Co-ordination meets every January in the Holy Land with the aim of acting in solidarity with local Christians and sharing in the pastoral life of the local Church as it experiences intense political and social-economic pressure.
Speaking from Bethlehem on Sunday, Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool and Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
“Everyone I meet at this time speaks with immense sadness of the suffering and destruction taking place in Gaza and the fears of the people in Israel because of rocket attacks. As someone who beyond all deserving or planning on my part has visited the Holy Land many times and Gaza once, this sadness reflects my own heart at this time. The conflict has deep roots but the priority now must be the immediate end to all violence. Violence is evil especially when it blocks humanitarian relief desperately needed. Because the roots are so deep and complex this outburst of violence cries out for such wise and courageous leadership that justice for all those for whom the Holy Land is home is achieved so that all violence is relegated to the past and peace shall be secured for generations to come.
“There needs to be an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian relief through. There is an urgent need for humanitarian relief for the population of Gaza. Violence is evil, especially when it blocks humanitarian aid.
“The first duty of leaders in this situation is to take the necessary steps to stop and avoid violence and to take the costly steps to engage in dialogue. What is needed now is a will on both sides to listen, understand and move towards reconciliation. History always judges as truly brave those who are open to any conversation that saves a single life.
“The agencies, supported by the Church, seek to serve all. However they have a specific responsibility to the needs of the minority Christians and also to appreciate the role of religion and faith in this land. Any solution must recognise this land has to be home for two peoples and three religions.”
Also on Sunday, while addressing a group of Christian schoolchildren who had paraded through Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, said the following:
“Here in Bethlehem in these days when we are witnesses to so much horror in Gaza … I say: violence, no matter where it comes from or whatever form it takes, must be condemned… I want to take this opportunity to condemn the violence in the Middle East and in a special way the attacks in the Gaza Strip. In two weeks these attacks have hurt Israel and the region more than all the rockets launched across the years.
“The birth of the child Jesus in the lowly stable of Bethlehem, so weak and undefended, leads us naturally to think of the situation in Gaza, where over the past two weeks we have witnessed a renewed outbreak of violence. This violence has caused a huge loss of life and destruction of homes, schools and institutions, wreaking immense damage and bringing terrible suffering for the civilian population, especially to many innocent children.
“Violence tempts us because it seems as if it might resolve our problems. This is a false hope. This outbreak of violence brings nothing but complications in the quest for a just settlement to the conflict, which is fervently sought by people across this land and indeed across the world.”