The bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination group, formed from across Europe, North America and South Africa, have condemned the ongoing violence in Gaza. Each year the group undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land as an expression of solidarity with the diminishing number of Christians who are living in the region and to offer moral support to the suffering Palestinian people.
Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Holy Land Co-ordination and Bishop Christopher Chessun, Anglican Bishop of Southwark, said today, ‘The terrible loss of life in Gaza caused by the Israeli army’s use of live fire against civilians is to be condemned unequivocally.’
‘These protests take place against the drastically deteriorating humanitarian situation which leaves little hope and continues to undermine a peaceful resolution. Hundreds of families across Gaza are now mourning their loved ones, dead and wounded.’
They continued, ‘Israel has a right to defend itself but also has the moral and legal responsibility not to use disproportionate force and not to prevent the injured from receiving medical treatment.
‘All violence is destructive to peace efforts and our cry is for a peaceful two state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital.
‘We pray for all those who suffer from this conflict and for the peace of Jerusalem.’
Pope Francis on Twitter on 16 May also expressed his ‘great sorrow over the dead and wounded in the Holy Land and the Middle East’ adding that ‘Violence never leads to peace. Therefore, I call on all sides involved and the international community to renew efforts so that dialogue, justice and peace may prevail.’
The annual pilgrimage group includes lay and clerical representatives from the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The group consists of bishops from Canada, England and Wales, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, the USA and the Church of England. The group visit holy sites and pastoral initiatives involving Trócaire, the overseas humanitarian agency of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, and other international Catholic charities working in the West Bank, Gaza and in Jordan.
The Holy Land co-ordination pilgrimage is organised by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. It was established at the end of the 20th century at the invitation of the Holy See with the aim of visiting and supporting the Holy Land’s local Christian communities. Since the 1990s, the Coordination has been making an annual visit to the Christian communities present in the Holy Land. The Co-ordination’s raison d’être can be expressed through the ‘3 Ps’: Prayer, Pilgrimage, Persuasion.