Two distinguished patrons of the Balfour Project signed the communique below from the Holy Land Coordination (HLC):Rt Revd Declan Lang, Catholic Bishop of Clifton and Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Dept. of International Affairs andRt Revd Christopher Chessun, Anglican Bishop of Southwark and Lead Bishop for International Affairs. The HLC is a group of Catholic Bishops from Europe and the Americas tasked by HH the Pope to give support to Christians in the Holy Land. Bishop Declan chairs the HLC. Every January they visit Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, joined by Bishop Christopher. This year, COVID meant that their visit had to be virtual. In their communique of 21 January the Bishops- criticise the lack of political progress, relentless expansion of illegal settlements and Israel’s Nation-State law- call upon our Government to renew the search for a just peace, upholding international law and reaffirming the plurality of Jerusalem- hold Israel accountable for its clear responsibility to make vaccines accessible for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The text of the communique is below.
Holy Land Coordination 2021 Final Communiqué
This is the first time we have been prevented from meeting physically in the Holy Land. Yet we remain resolutely committed to supporting our sisters and brothers in the homeland of Christ. Over the past week we have been privileged and moved to hear from Christians across the West Bank, Gaza and Israel about their mission, resilience and witness in these unprecedented circumstances.
Through our dialogue, it has become painfully clear that there is today less cause for optimism than at any time in recent history.
The health challenges of Covid-19, felt by the entire world, are compounded by conflict, occupation and blockade.
The absence of international pilgrims has exacerbated widespread economic hardship, increased levels of unemployment and pushed many more families into poverty.
The lack of political progress, along with relentless expansion of illegal settlements and the impact of Israel’s Nation-State law, continues to erode any prospect of a peaceful two-state solution.
Now is a critical moment for us all to strengthen our expression of solidarity with the people of the Holy Land “not as a vague sentiment but as a ‘firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good’”.1
We stress the importance of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships recommitting to direct negotiations. We call upon our own governments and political leaders urgently to renew their active participation in the search for a just peace, supporting dialogue between all sides, upholding international law, and reaffirming the plurality of Jerusalem, given its unique significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Furthermore, the international community must hold Israel accountable for its moral, legal and humanitarian responsibility to make Covid-19 vaccines accessible for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and encourage cooperation by the Palestinian Authority, heeding Pope Francis’ message that “in the face of a challenge that knows no borders, we cannot erect walls.”2
While many of our own countries continue to face severe hardship amid the pandemic, we have a profound responsibility to support our fellow Christians in the Holy Land. Church schools, clinics, hospitals and other social projects including the work of Caritas, while under severe pressure, are models of charity, justice, and peace. These Christian institutions are vital in bringing together people from many different backgrounds to serve the common good of all.
The Christian community, though small, is an important guarantor of social cohesion and a bearer of hope for a better future. We eagerly await a time when Christians from across the world can once again make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to witness and support this first- hand. Until that point, we encourage our communities to provide any assistance that may be possible and hold all the region’s peoples in our prayers.
Bishop Declan Lang
England and Wales (Chair of the Holy Land Coordination)
Bishop Udo Bentz
Archbishop Stephen Brislin
Bishop Christopher Chessun
Church of England
Bishop Michel Dubost
Bishop Felix Gmur
Bishop Nicholas Hudson
England & Wales
Archbishop Patrick Kelly
England & Wales
Bishop William Kenney
England & Wales
Bishop Alan McGuckian
Bishop David Malloy
United States of America
Bishop William Nolan
Bishop Raymond Poisson
Bishop Noel Treanor
Archbishop Joan Enric Vives i Sicilia
1 Pope Francis, World Day of Peace 2021
2 Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi 2020