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HomeNewsVaticanUN General Assembly: Holy See welcomes initiatives for peace in Holy Land

UN General Assembly: Holy See welcomes initiatives for peace in Holy Land

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, highlights the Holy See’s priorities with regard to the Holy Land in the context of renewed efforts to build peace in the Middle East.

By Christopher Wells

The Holy See welcomes any initiative for peace in the Holy Land precisely because it “is firmly convinced that peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and in the region more generally, would benefit the entire international community.”

At the same time, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, emphasized that any peace initiative must both protect the local populations and provide for the legitimate concerns of the various parties.

Priorities of the Holy See

Speaking at a High-Level Meeting during the General Assembly of the United Nations, Archbishop Gallagher noted the Holy See’s priorities with regard to the Holy Land, especially the existence of the Holy Places related to the life of Jesus, which have been entrusted for almost 800 years to the Custody of the Friars Minor; and the continuous presence of a Christian community for two thousand years.

After recalling the Holy See’s efforts in support of a “two-state solution,” the Archbishop highlighted the question of the administration of the city of Jerusalem. Recognized as a Holy City by Jews, Muslims, and Christians, Jerusalem can be a “place of encounter” where all can live together “with respect and mutual goodwill.”

Jerusalem, a City of Encounter

In this context, said Archbishop Gallagher, “It is truly sad to see acts of intolerance in Jerusalem, such as those recently perpetrated by some Jewish extremists against Christians,” and called for such acts to be condemned by all governments, including the Israeli government. He added that attacks on Christians must also “be prosecuted by law and prevented in the future through education in fraternity.”

He called for Jerusalem to be recognized as a “City of Encounter” protected by “an internationally agreed ‘special statute’,” an idea promoted by the Holy See for some time.

He said the Holy See “is firmly convinced that whoever administers the City of Jerusalem should adhere to internationally guaranteed principles,” including “the equal rights and duties of the faithful of the three monotheistic religions (Christians, Jews, and Muslims), the absolute guarantee of freedom of religion and of access to and worship in the Holy Places, and respect for the Status Quo regime, where it applies.”

The need for dialogue

Finally, Archbishop Gallagher noted Pope Francis’ repeated calls for direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

He recalled the 2014 meeting in the Vatican between then-Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, noting that there have not been any since the two leaders, together with Pope Francis, planted an olive tree, representing the hope for peace in the Gardens.

“Nevertheless,” he concluded, “we continue to water that olive tree, waiting for the Presidents of both States, accompanied by their Governments, to come again to reap the fruits of peace.”

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