January 24, 2014
Dear Friends in Christ:
As the holy season of Lent approaches, our minds and prayers naturally turn to the Holy Land, the place of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. As citizens of the United States, we have an urgent reason to focus prayer and attention on peace in the Holy Land this year.
As you are probably aware, Secretary John Kerry, with the support of President Barack Obama, is making a concerted effort to reach a framework agreement as a basis for resolving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pope Francis and the Holy See have expressed support for this initiative. Just last month our Holy Father, in an address to the diplomatic corps, said: “[T]he resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians is a positive sign, and I express my hope that both parties will resolve, with the support of the international community, to take courageous decisions aimed at finding a just and lasting solution to a conflict which urgently needs to end.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has frequently urged U.S. leadership for peace. In January 2013, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then the Conference President, and I publicly urged the President “to exercise vigorous leadership for Israeli-Palestinian peace” and promised to support “strong U.S. leadership for peace.” Subsequently in June, we commended the President “for traveling to the Holy Land” and “for charging Secretary of State John Kerry with the urgent task of bringing the parties to the negotiating table.”
Secretary Kerry expects to put forth a “framework” for peace at the end of March or in April. In a meeting with religious leaders recently, he asked for the support of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders. This Lent I urge you to pray for peace and to support mutual adoption of a framework for peace.
For decades, our Conference of Bishops has supported a two-state solution to the conflict, a secure and recognized Israel living in peace with a viable and independent Palestinian state. We have lifted up the aspirations of two peoples and affirmed access to the Holy Sites of the three faiths that share the land we call holy. Now is the time to redouble our prayerful efforts to support Israelis and Palestinians seeking peace.
In the coming weeks, I invite you to pray regularly for Israeli-Palestinian peace. I also encourage you to consider writing about the Church’s hopes for a U.S. led peace framework in letters-to-the-editor of local newspapers. Finally, please speak up and let your public officials and neighbors know of their support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Thank you for your commitment to peace.
Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines
Chairman, Committee on International Justice & Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops