Leaders of Catholic Religious Congregations Return from Middle East and Call for Establishment of a Palestinian Homeland and End of Israel’s “Injustice of Occupation”
(Silver Spring, MD) December 17, 2002 – Returning from the Holy Land only days before Christmas, an international delegation of leaders representing 200,000 Catholic sisters, religious priests and brothers has issued a statement drafted in Jerusalem calling for the establishment of peace in that troubled area by the withdrawal of Israeli troops from contested lands, the establishment of a Palestinian homeland and an end to suicide bombings by Palestinians.

“We believe that peace will come only when the injustice of occupation ends and the Palestinian people can live securely in their own nation,” noted the delegation, composed of leaders of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Religious Conference of England and Wales. “ We also believe that Israel will not know peace and security until a Palestinian homeland is realized.”

The document, directed to the leaders of Catholic religious congregations in the United States and the UK, offers reflections on their encounters with both the people and the daily realities of the people of the area. “We were privileged to meet women and men – Israelis and Palestinians: Jews, Christian and Muslims who, in spite of the oppression and occupation, are seeking paths of peace and work for justice.” From these people, the leaders learned of their perception of the international community and “the roaring silence” regarding their plight in the Holy Land. “They are deeply disappointed that the international voice is virtually silent in the face of occupation, oppression and violence.” From this experience, the leaders call on their member congregational leaders to accept a challenge: “They have asked us to speak out in our own Christian communities, our own nations and in the international community. …We recognize that we have a great responsibility to heed the challenge of our friends in the Holy Land by raising the awareness of their reality and to act effectively in our congregations, our ministries and our respective countries.” 

As well, the American-based Conferences’ leadership plans to petition the U.S. Government to take a strong stand for the sake of peace. “ We will call on our government to urge the Israeli government to end the illegal occupation and withdraw to the borders agreed upon in U. N. Resolution 242. ...We also call on our government to urge the Israeli government to cease all expansion of settlement, which includes stopping all new building and all transfer of people to the settlements…to cease construction of the wall that will further divide this land and impede the already constricted freedom of movement of the Palestinian people.”