Statement on the Middle East

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United States Catholic Conference

Stati Uniti d'America       13/11/1973

The conflict in the Middle East is a complex fusion of political, military, economic and religious factors. As bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, we speak to the issue as pastors concerned for the parties immediately involved, seeking to offer guidance to American Catholics on the issue, and eager to do what we can, even from this distance, to contribute to a just, peaceful and lasting resolution of this painful tragedy.

Faced with a problem which has frustrated the efforts of statesmen for years, we offer our reflections with no pretensions of formulating a definitive solution. We seek instead to highlight factors which we believe point the way toward reconciliation, peace and justice in the Middle East. The problem must be viewed at a global and a regional level.

First, we are impelled to observe the grave dangers of this conflict. Because of the strategic significance of this area of the world and the relationships of major nuclear powers to the parties involved, this conflict contains the potential of wider war, even of nuclear war. Such a war must be avoided at all costs. We believe that we voice the sentiments of people everywhere when we recall Pope John's words that in such a situation, « it is hardly possible to imagine that in the atomic era war could be used as an instrument of justice » (Peace on Earth, n. 127).

Second, the roots of the conflict reside in the region; these causes must be removed if the Middle East is to have peace and the world is to be secure from a greater war. The history of this region is one of claims and counterclaims which may never be perfectly adjudicated. We hope that the parties can transcend this troubled and complex past and move toward a new beginning for all the peoples of the Middle East. We believe all parties possess certain just claims, probably none of which can be perfectly fulfilled, all of which can be partially realized.

Rather than rehearse the past, we would point to the significance of the present moment: A convergenceof international and regional forces has produced the situation in which all parties appear ready to make some concessions, to test alternatives and to take steps which offer hope for a reasonable settlement.

The road to such a settlement is still long, dangerous and complex; we have no illusions about the difficulties of the task ahead for all concerned. Yet we find in the history of the region and in previous attempts at a peaceful solution certain factors which we believe are essential to future progress. We wish to call attention to these elements in this resolution, making the following plea to the parties concerned.

We call for a comprehensive political solution involving the following:

1. Recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state with secure boundaries;

2. Recognition of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs: This involves, in our view, inclusion of them as partners in any negotiations, acceptance of their right to a state and compensation for past losses to be paid not only by Israel but also by other members of the international community responsible for the 1948 partition plan;

3. Acceptance as the basis for negotiations by all parties to the conflict of the stipulations set forth in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of 22 November 1967;

4. Recognition of the need for continued restraint and continuing responsible diplomatic involvement by the Soviet Union and the United States; we believe this can be most effectively achieved if superpower actions are mutually coordinated with U. N. activities in the region;

5. Continuing reliance on the United Nations diplomatically and through its peacekeeping machinery;

6. Given recognition of the unique status of the city of Jerusalem and its religious significance which transcends the interests of any one tradition, we believe it necessary to insure access to the city through a form of international guarantee. Moreover, the character of the city as a religiously pluralist community, with equal protection of the religious and civil rights of all citizens must be guaranteed in the name of justice.

In proposing these reflections we seek to fulfill our ministry of justice and peace. We ask men and women of good will to consider them in the spirit in which they are offered, as a contribution to reconciliation in the Middle East and peace in the world. We pray that the Prince of Peace will bless our efforts and those peoples and governments who labor as peacemakers.

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Inserito 01/01/1970