Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Catholic Bishops Offer Six-point Program on Middle East Situation

November 19, 1973
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Catholic Bishops of the United States, implying permanent Israeli political and administrative control of Jerusalem in a Middle East settlement have offered a six-point “comprehensive political solution” in “a plea to the parties concerned.” Jerusalem’s future was presented as the sixth point in a resolution that was “passed by a voice vote with no dissent heard” by the approximately 250 bishops attending their annual conference at the Statler Hilton Hotel here, the conference secretariat reported.

The point regarding Jerusalem said: “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.”

Besides this reference to Jerusalem, the other five points in the bishops’ resolution came in this order: “Recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state with secure boundaries”; “recognition of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs, especially the refugees” with their inclusion 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; acceptance as the basis for negotiations by all parties to the conflict of the stipulations in UN Security Council Resolution 242 of Novi 22, 1967; continued restraint and responsible diplomatic involvement by the Soviet Union and the United States “mutually coordinated with UN activities in the region”; and continued reliance on the UN diplomatically and through its peacekeeping machinery.

The absence in the resolution or in the discussion released by the secretariat of any mention of political control of the Holy City by any international body or nation and the fact that Israel is in fact administering the municipality appeared to observers that it is the bishops’ intention to favor Israel’s continuance of political administration. The Rev. J. Bryan Hehir of Boston, director of the division of justice and peace of the conference, made the presentation on the Middle East. It was accepted with applause and only a few questions and little change in the resolution’s substance occurred.

In discussing Jerusalem, Father Hehir said: “For three of the major religious communities of the world the question of Jerusalem holds a special significance. The Vatican itself has been constantly concerned about specific issues relating to Jerusalem. These issues include international protection for the holy places, the future of Arab Christians in Jerusalem (and elsewhere in the area), and the special status which the City of Jerusalem itself has for our faith.” He made no mention of internationalization of the city as a whole.

In discussing the Palestinians, Father Hehir told the bishops that the Palestinians have “special relevance” to the principle that “any settlement which leaves one party with the view that its claims have been totally denied makes that party ipso facto a revisionist element” and “its future goal is to overthrow the settlement.” He said “it could be argued that no other party to the conflict has suffered more over the past 25 years” than the Palestinians. “It is both politically sound and morally necessary for the Palestinians to be accepted as an independent participant in any negotiations on the Middle East problem.” He urged that “the church should stand for this form of independent presence for the Palestinians because there, as in other areas of international life, the weakest party becomes the forgotten party.”

Recommended from JTA