Archbishop's web site Denver Catholic Register Parishes Catholic Pastoral Center
November 15 , 2000
Violence in the land of Jesus' birth
By Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput O.F.M. Cap.
Over the past year, in celebrating the Great Jubilee, Catholics in northern Colorado have committed ourselves to building a new relationship with the Jewish community, acknowledging and repenting of sins against the Jewish people in the past, and rediscovering the Jewish roots of our own faith.
This is important work. It will continue well beyond the Jubilee. It depends on actions, not just words. It also requires an honest exchange of views on difficult issues. The current violence in the Middle East is a case where Jewish and Catholic responses may diverge in some key ways.
Catholics need to remember that over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered repeated persecution. Too often, this has happened at the hands of persons and cultures describing themselves as Christian. The legitimate Jewish yearning for a homeland has deep roots. For most Jews around the world, the State of Israel rightly recognized by the Vatican, as well as virtually the entire international community embodies in a very powerful way Jewish survival, identity and hope.
The apprehension Jews feel about the fighting in the Holy Land flows from three regional wars and 50 years of internal violence. Israelis deal with fear and isolation to a degree few Americans can understand. Yet, like their neighbors, the people of Israel have a right to life, peace and security.
At the same time, the Palestinian people among them, Palestinian Christians have their own urgent and legitimate claims to nationhood. Palestinians have suffered enormously over the past half-century. This comes partly from the neglect of other Arab states, but also from discrimination and repression at the hands of Israeli authorities.
His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, has underlined both the justice and urgency of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Leaders of 13 Christian communities in the Holy Land signed an appeal on November 9. In it, they stressed that "it is the right and duty of an occupied people to struggle against injustice in order to gain their freedom . . ." At the same time, they called for nonviolence and negotiations as the means to a just solution.
The Holy See, for many years, has urged an international, "holy city" solution to the question of Jerusalem. Both Israelis and Palestinians should, in some way, share the city. Even more importantly, all three great religions that revere it Judaism, Christianity and Islam should share it equally. This is the only way peace will finally come.
For Catholics, of course, the most tragic irony in the land of Jesus' birth is that local Christians, both Israeli and Palestinian, are frequently the most voiceless victims of all. They struggle just to survive a minority crushed between two much larger Jewish and Muslim communities.
As we approach Advent and a new Church year, Catholics need to be in solidarity with both Israelis and Palestinians. We can't afford ignorance. We need to listen to and understand their concerns. We especially need to support the Church in the Holy Land with our thoughts and our resources.
And above all, we need to pray for peace. God does listen.