The concern emerges clearly from the press release published at the end of the visit from Saturday May 21 to Thursday May 26 of the “Holy Land coordination” to Jerusalem and its surroundings. Supported by the Holy See, this initiative has organized every year, for the past twenty years, the visit of a group of Western bishops.
“The Christian community is essential to the identity of Jerusalem, now and for the future”, ensure the six pilgrim bishops of the 2022 edition of the “Holy Land coordination”. And yet, “its continued presence is threatened by occupation and injustice”. Those responsible for this situation are clearly named: “settler groups” – Israelis therefore – who use the ” violence ” and to“bullying”.
The security forces of the Jewish state are implicated very directly. Thus, the “unilateral restrictions imposed by the Israeli police” for Easter celebrations are denounced. The words are even stronger to evoke the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, Palestinian Christian journalist killed at the beginning of May while covering an Israeli armed intervention.
The “right” and the “duty” of Christians
denouncing his “murder”the bishops share the “deep sadness and anger” Christians in the Holy Land, especially after “the shameful attack on mourners at his funeral”. In an interview with the cath.ch site, one of the participants in the pilgrimage, Mgr Pierre Bürcher, bishop emeritus of Reykjavik (Iceland), does not hesitate to describe the events as “violation of international standards and the fundamental right to freedom of worship” because of “disproportionate force deployed by the Israeli police”.
Behind these specific cases, the statement of the six bishops marks a concern about the future of the Christian presence in Jerusalem. The city “must remain a common heritage and never become the exclusive monopoly of a particular religion”they insist, because she is “a Jewish town, a Christian town, a Muslim town”. “It is our right and our duty as Christians to defend the openness and universality of the city”, claim the signatories.
“Jerusalem goes beyond any consideration of territorial issues”
“Place of dialogue and unity” to “sacredness”Jerusalem has a “universal value (…)which goes beyond any consideration of territorial issues”, says the press release. If the words are less explicit this time, they mark the fear of a total control of Israel over the city, to the detriment of Christians and Muslims.
Tensions on this subject are indeed frequent. In addition to the tensions of Easter, when the Israeli police had severely regulated access to Christian places of worship, the latest concerns date back to February, with the Israeli project to extend a national park on a territory including very important places for Christian pilgrims, starting with the Mount of Olives.
The desire to establish a “special status” for Jerusalem has been a longstanding concern for Christian leaders, coming back with even more force since 2017 and Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel in the eyes of the public. American State. In the wake of this decision, Pope Francis expressed his “deep concern” and pleaded for “everyone agrees to respect the status quo of the city”.