Bishops ask Prime Minister to urge Israel to loosen security over Holy Week

  • March 30, 2010
{mosimage}OTTAWA-Canada’s Catholic bishops have written Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to urge Israel to relax security measures making it difficult for Orthodox and Catholic Christians to participate fully in Holy Week worship.

“While fully respecting and endorsing the right and need of Israeli citizens to be able to live in security, our conference is also aware that there are many people in the Middle East growing increasingly frustrated, impatient and even hostile because of various security measures imposed by the State of Israel,” wrote Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Bishop Pierre Morissette in a March 26 letter. “Thus ironically, today’s efforts to improve security may have the unintended but inevitable effect of spawning future insecurity.”

The Saint-Jérôme bishop told Harper that Christians in Jerusalem are finding it difficult to observe “the blessing of the fire at the Easter Vigil, from joining in morning prayer on Holy Saturday, and from processing to the Holy Sepulchre.”

“Although there has been a basic agreement for these traditional observances since 1852, over the past five years Christians have been complaining that Israeli police are imposing unwarranted restrictions — culminating now in a plea to the international community to assist Christians in the Holy Land so they can exercise their religious rights,” Morissette said.

He quoted an attached press release that spoke of road blocks, curfews, forced closures and machine gun-toting police officers and soldiers who express rude or hostile attitudes.

Morissette also recounted his personal visit to a Combonian Sisters convent in January.

“The Israeli government has extended the security wall along the land belonging to the Sisters, thus preventing children from having access to the school,” he said.

Though the Sisters protested and eventually authorities cut a narrow door in the wall, military police are often late in opening it, inconveniencing the parents.

“Any parent of young children here in Canada can easily imagine the frustration and humiliation that are involved with this inconvenient arrangement day after day, simply in order to get young children to and from school,” he said.

The CCCB president asked the government to “do all it can to promote a just and lasting settlement in this conflict, and one which takes into account the rights and needs of Israelis and Palestinians, including Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

“As Canadian Christians join their sisters and brothers around the world in preparing for Holy Week, we join you in praying and working for the peace which is promised in the Paschal celebrations,” he concluded.

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