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Bishops call for an end to ‘scandal’ of the occupied territories

19 January 2017 | by Megan Cornwell

The bishops released their statement after returning from an annual visit to the Holy Land

A group of Catholic bishops visiting the Holy land have called Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem “a scandal” to which “we must never become accustomed”.

Returning from a visit to Gaza and the West Bank, the Holy Land Coordination group, consisting of 14 bishops and clergy from across Europe, North America and South Africa, said the current situation violates the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis.

In 1967, during the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel occupied Sinai, Gaza, the Golan Heights, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Gaza is now governed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Chair of the Holy Land Coordination group, Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, said: "We must pray for peace for everyone in this land; two peoples and three faiths. We must all make ourselves aware of the situation. Having informed ourselves of the reality, we must then take action, by supporting the charities active in the Holy Land, by coming on pilgrimage and by contacting our elected representatives”.

The group said the expansion of Israeli settlements - a process condemned by a UN Security Council resolution last month - “imperils the chance of peace”.

The group was set up at the end of the twentieth century at the invitation of the Holy See in order to visit and support the local Christian communities in the Holy Land and to find ways to raise awareness in their own countries.

Pope Francis last week met with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to assure him of his support as their new embassy to the Holy See opened in Rome.

The two leaders discussed the fragile peace process and expressed hope that "direct negotiations between the parties may be resumed to bring an end to the violence", the Vatican said.

According to figures from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Christians represented 30 per cent of the population in 1948 but today make up only 1.25 per cent in the Israeli and Occupied Palestinian territories.

Photo - An Israeli soldier on guard duty in the city of Hebron.



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