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Letter to Prime Minister Sharon on Nazareth Mosque

 

Mr. Ariel Sharon
The Prime Minister of Israel

23 January 2002

Dear Prime Minister

We write this letter as visiting Catholic bishops attending a meeting in Jerusalem with the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land, a meeting that takes place with the encouragement of the Holy See.

We appreciate and applaud the step taken by the Government of Israel in stopping work on the mosque alongside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. We understand that a further decision relating to this matter is imminent.

You are well aware that the Christian community holds in esteem both Judaism and Islam. Each of our religious groups, in fidelity to its tradition, must find a place in this land, now and in the future, with great respect for one another's faith and religious practices. Out of this respect we affirm the right to construct buildings for public religious worship.

We wish to draw to your attention, however, as others have already done, that a mosque built on this spot, adjacent to one of the most sacred shrines of the Holy Land, would offend susceptibilities across the whole Christian world. Christians are committed to witness to peace, always and everywhere. If this project were to be ratified, it would undermine the hopes of peace, especially in Nazareth itself. Many Muslim leaders themselves have declared the project unacceptable for this reason, that it is intrinsically a provocation; indeed a place of worship is compromised if it directly provokes conflict. This project has already been attended with intimidation of, and even violent attacks on, Christians and their property. Public address systems have broadcast insults to Christian worshippers at the basilica, even during religious services. On some occasions, faced with such incidents, the police have stood by and failed in their responsibility.

We urge your Government to confirm once and for all that this work shall not proceed, so demonstrating that your Government is committed to protecting the integrity of Christian Holy Places in Israel,

Yours sincerely

Bishop Wilton Gregory
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Archbishop Patrick Kelly
Vice-President, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales

Bishop Jean Orchampt
Episcopal Conference of France

Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni
Episcopal Conference of Italy

Bishop William Kenney
Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union

Bishop Jacques Berthelet
President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Bishop Manfred Melzer
German Bishops' Conference

Bishop Giuseppe Merisi
Episcopal Conference of Italy

Bishop Pierre Bürcher
Episcopal Conference of Switzerland

Bishop Anthony O'Connell
Catholic Relief Services
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 


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