Middle East Unrest and 'Anxiety' Concerns International Catholic Delegation

An international delegation of Catholic bishops has raised concern over continued unrest in the Holy Land and other parts of the Middle East. In a communiqué marking the end of a five-day pastoral visit to the region, the bishops spoke of the "profound anxiety" being experienced by people in Israel and Palestine, as well as Syria.

They said that recent fighting had led to "increasing polarization" within Israel and Palestine, while the conflict in Syria has caused huge numbers of refugees to pour into neighboring countries, putting "enormous strain" on their resources.

The delegation included Bishop Declan Lang and Bishop William Kenney from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

They were updated on the current situation in the Holy Land by Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and from the Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr Giuseppe Lazzarotto.

The delegation also met Christian communities in Gaza, Bethlehem and Beit Jala.

Christians in the Cremison Valley told of the legal struggles to protect local people's lands and religious institutions from the encroachment of the security barrier.

"We promise to continue urging our respective governments to act to prevent this injustice," the bishops said.

They also raised concern about the plight of refugees who continue to flee from terror and violence in Iraq.

"We are inspired to promote a just peace and call upon Christian communities in our home countries and people of goodwill everywhere to support the work undertaken in this region to build a better future," the bishops said.

"We are also called to recognize and tell others how faith in God brings light into the lives of people in the Holy Land."

The communiqué encourages Christians to come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and support efforts to promote peace.

"We shall work hard to persuade our respective governments to recognize the root causes of suffering in this land and to step up their efforts for a just peace," the bishops conclude.