Says It Will Aid PeaceJERUSALEM, JAN. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A greater Christian presence in the Holy Land will aid peace efforts, concluded a meeting of bishops of North America and Europe.
The eight-day gathering was the sixth annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land, which seeks to encourage the commitment and solidarity of Catholics worldwide with this area.
In a final statement issued Thursday, the bishops also appealed to the Israeli government to implement the Fundamental Agreement that regulates its relations with the Catholic Church, and appealed to the Palestinians to reject violence and recognize the state of Israel.
"The Christian presence is a moderating influence and is essential to achieving peace," said the communiqué.
The note added: "As Pope Benedict XVI recently said, 'Christian witness will be of assistance and support for a future of peace and fraternity.'
"Christians are small in number but are an integral part of the people of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
"Their rights must be guaranteed through recognition of equality and improved security, along with religious rights enshrined in law."
The prelates continued: "Clearly something new is needed to achieve justice and peace so that Israelis can move beyond fear, which drives counterproductive security policies that oppress the Palestinian people."
The Palestinians will then be able to "move beyond anger and despair, which drive violence that terrifies the Israeli people," the statement said.
The document appeals to Catholics "to pray for peace, come on pilgrimage and undertake other activities to support" the Church in the Holy Land.
In addition to the bishops of North America and Europe, representatives of Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services, Pax Christi International, the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, the Pontifical Mission Society, Vatican Radio and the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation also attended.