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 CNS Story:

HOLYLAND-BISHOPS Jan-14-2010 (490 words) With photos. xxxi

Bishops urge politicians to show courage in quest for Mideast peace

By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Calling for justice for the peoples of the Holy Land, a U.S. bishop joined a group of European bishops in urging political leaders to be courageous in seeking a just peace in the region.

The bishops, including Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., said that despite the region's deep wounds, "love and hope are alive" among the people.

"Peace with justice is within reach, but political leaders and all people of good will need courage to achieve it," the 10 bishops said in their statement Jan. 14 at the conclusion of the four-day Holy Land Coordination.

Mandated by the Holy See and organized by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, the Holy Land Coordination meets every January in the Holy Land as a demonstration of solidarity with the resident Christian community.

The bishops urged both Palestinians and Israelis to support public officials who "take courageous initiatives for a just resolution of the conflict to reach a two-state solution, with security and recognition for Israel and a viable and independent state for Palestinians."

"For us, this is not merely about politics; it is an issue of basic human rights," the bishops said.

They expressed concern about the growing distance between Israelis and Palestinians and the lack of human contact between the two, noting that such distance "undermines trust and dialogue."

"The situation in the Holy Land is serious and of deep concern because it has regional implications, and it is critical the international community participate in the potential resolution of the conflict," said Bishop Kicanas, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Clearly the United States plays an important role respecting the integrity of Israelis and Palestinians."

He said he would like to "prod and encourage" U.S. President Barack Obama to "exercise the will and courage" mentioned in the meeting's closing statement.

"(President Obama) along with other international leaders and certainly the Israeli and Palestinian governments must realize the critical nature of their deliberation and bring this divided and difficult situation to a positive resolution," he said.

The situation is complex, he acknowledged, and "does not lend itself to a simple or naive resolution."

The bishops visited Bethlehem University, the seminary at Beit Sahour and parishes across the West Bank and heard presentations from Israeli and Palestinian as well as international speakers about the current situation in the region.

Bishop Kicanas said his visit to Hebron, West Bank, with American Catholic university students Jan. 13 brought clearly to the forefront a "fearful image" of what could happen if the two communities cannot reach "some mutual respect and understanding of each other."

He noted that both communities have suffered pain and loss, making reconciliation a very delicate and complicated process.

"We have to be very sensitive to (the fact) there are two peoples who have experienced great trauma now trying to come to understand each other, respect each other and trust each other, which is not a small task," he said.


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