January 21, 2013

JERUSALEM – Bishops who traveled to the Holy Land to assess the local Church's needs noted the "profound anxiety" the "dark and dramatic events" of the past year have caused in the region.

The civil war in Syria has resulted in an increasingly large number of refugees pouring into other countries, putting an enormous strain on national and government resources, they said. The situation within Israel and Palestine has also become increasingly polarized, they added.

"We shall work hard to persuade our respective governments to recognize the root causes of suffering in this land and to step up their efforts for a just peace," they said in the Jan. 10 statement.

Each year bishops from Canada, the U.S. and Europe travel to the Mideast for the Holy Land Coordination, designed to show support for the churches there. This year's focus was on the "suffering and vulnerable people in the Holy Land."

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith represented Canada at the Jan. 5 to 10 event in his role as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A Jerusalem news conference in which the bishops' statement was to have been presented to journalists was canceled due to a rare winter snowstorm, which left the bishops stuck in Bethlehem, West Bank.

In their statement, the bishops encouraged people to take steps toward practical support for the most vulnerable in the Holy Land, including African refugees who are victims of trafficking, migrant workers and Christian prisoners.

"We encourage Christians to come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where they will experience the same warm hospitality we received," they said.