The Holy See
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Tuesday, 5 November 2002


Mr Chairman,

After reading the Report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, my Delegation once again voices its praise and appreciation for the work of the Agency. This Delegation also offers words of condolence for those members of the UNRWA staff killed or injured in carrying out their duties.

My Delegation notes that previous speakers have clearly identified many of the critical issues festering in the region served by UNRWA. They have spoken about settlements, curfews, closures, assassinations, suicide bombers as well as the effects upon the Palestinian people regarding employment, education and access to medical services.

Pontifical Mission for Palestine

The Holy See understands precisely how the current situation has impacted the lives of so many with such adversity. The Pontifical Mission for Palestine and its numerous collaborators worldwide report daily on the trials of those people served.

The work of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine relies heavily on its collaborators, in order to provide financial support for its work among the Palestinian people, especially those living in refugee camps. The annual budget of US$ 10,720,203.00 has been supported by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (U.S.A), Mercy Corps International (U.S.A), Kinderhilfe Bethlehem (Switzerland), Fundación Social de la Cultura (Spain), Bischofliches Hilfswerk Misereor (Germany), the Archdiocese of Cologne (Germany) and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (Worldwide). These funds are used for the labour intensive programme, basically for the employment of Palestinians working on municipal projects; village restoration; pre-school through university educational programmes and the various health projects and clinics often forced to deal with the injuries sustained as a result of violence and armed conflict.

Papal appeal for end of violence, negotiations between parties

Pope John Paul II, in his Angelus message of Sunday, 11 August 2002, spoke of the futility of violence as a solution to the fundamental Israeli-Palestinian problem: 

"When will it be understood that the coexistence of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples cannot be brought about by arms? For it is neither attacks, nor walls that separate, nor even retaliation that will ever lead to a just solution of the continuing conflict.... From 1967 till today, unspeakable sufferings have followed one upon another in a frightening manner: the suffering of the Palestinians, driven out of their land and forced, in recent times, into a state of permanent siege, becoming as it were the object of a collective punishment; the suffering of the Israeli population, who live in the daily terror of being targets of anonymous assailants.... Faced with this humanitarian tragedy, which does not seem to show any signs of hope, no one can remain indifferent. That is why, once again, I appeal to the Israeli and Palestinian political leadership to set out anew on the path of sincere negotiation. I ask the international community to work with greater resolve in being present in the area, offering its mediation in order to create the conditions for a fruitful dialogue that will speed the process towards peace" (Angelus message, 11 August 2002:ORE, 21 August 2002, p. 12).

Mitchell Report

Mr Chairman,

My Delegation proposes that the international community must assist the Palestinians and the Israelis to realize that the fundamental injustice causing the continuous unending spiral of retaliations must come to an end. Also, the findings of the Mitchell Report, of 6 May 2001, clearly identified the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel as the root cause of the sufferings which plague both Israelis and Palestinians. It is incumbent upon both parties assisted by the international community to set out anew on the path of sincere negotiation so that this issue is properly addressed and accords of resolution produced. The massive application of violence has failed and failed miserably. It has increased the sufferings of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Voice of Yitzak Rabin

My Delegation wishes to take this opportunity to recall that in another time in the region there was a voice for fundamental reconciliation and peace. Speaking on the occasion of the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, stated: 
"Let me say to you, the Palestinians: We are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land. We the soldiers who have returned from battle stained with blood, we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes, we who have attended their funerals and cannot look into the eyes of their parents, we who have come from a land where parents bury their children, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians we say to you today in a loud and clear voice:  Enough of blood and tears. Enough" (13 September 1993).

Has the bullet which ended his life also ended the vision he saw of reconciliation and peace?

Holy City of Jerusalem

Mr Chairman,

Beyond addressing the root issues which have for over two years led to an unending cycle of violence, it is the hope of my Delegation that any solution found for the multifaceted problems of the region will include the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Holy See renews its consistent call for internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and conscience of its inhabitants, in order to safeguard the special character of the City and of the sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Current levels of violence have caused pilgrims to stay away from the Holy Land thus imposing severe economic penalties on all the people of the region.

The Holy See appeals for greater international solidarity and the political will to eliminate the root cause of the reprehensible violence affecting the people of the region especially the civilian population and children who should be exempt from such hostilities.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.