The bishops of England and Wales have written an open letter expressing their concerns following the US President's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel and appealing to world religious and political leaders to join them in taking a stand to protect religious freedom and the rights of Christians in the Middle East.
By Linda Bordoni
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have expressed their solidarity to local Churches in Jerusalem and to all Christians in the Middle East following the US President’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In a letter signed by the Archbishop of Westminster the bishops say they “count themselves among those who ‘love Jerusalem’ and ‘have every will to work and make it a land and a city of peace, life and dignity for all its inhabitants’”.
Three religions and two peoples belong to Jerusalem
They stress that they are one with the Patriarchs and heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem who have responded to President Trump pointing out that three religions and two peoples belong to this city.
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Fears for the consequences of President Trump's decision on Jerusalem
The bishops of England and Wales are very clear in stating that they stand at odds with President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and its status that goes to the heart of the Israeli conflict with Palestinians.
The message written on behalf of the bishops by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, expresses fear that the decision and its consequences “will increase the already deep-rooted tensions in the city and the wider region.” It highlights the need to respect the Status Quo agreement and protect the diverse communities within the city and the integrity of Jerusalem as a whole.
Bill of Church Lands: attack on property rights of Christians
The bishops also reveal their grave concern at the proposed Bill of Church Lands currently under consideration in the Israeli Parliament and say they stand in solidarity “against this threat to the long-standing arrangements that allow all faith communities to live together in Jerusalem”.
They describe the proposed Bill which would grant the State the power to confiscate Church land as an intolerable infringement of the Status Quo and the legitimate rights of the Churches and say it should be recognised for what it is: an attack on the property rights of the Christian community.
Call to world religious and political leaders to unite
Cardinal Nichols goes on to urge religious and political leaders around the world to unite in speaking out against this threat to religious freedom, which, he says, would set a dangerous precedent for other faiths in the Holy Land.
He appeals to Jerusalem authorities to stop the actions of radical settler groups seeking to expand their control over properties in Jerusalem to the exclusion of residents of the City who are not Jewish and thanks His Beatitude, Theophilos III, for raising these issues on behalf of the Christians in the Holy Land.
As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Lord, he concludes, and in the light of these heightened tensions, we urge all Christians, and all people of good will, not to neglect the struggles that His followers face in the land of His birth.