Catholic bishops call for action to end poverty in Gaza

ROME (RNS) Roman Catholic bishops from the U.S. and Europe concluded a visit to Gaza with a call for the end of Israel’s long-running blockade, and greater action to alleviate poverty after last year’s violent war with Israel.

Sixteen bishops who represent the Holy Land Coordination group went to Gaza for the first time since the conflict killed some 2,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

“We witnessed the tragic consequences of the failure of both local and international politicians to advance peace,” the bishops said.

“The ongoing conflict assaults the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis, but in a particular way our commitment to the poor calls us to lift up the suffering people in Gaza.”

The Holy Land Coordination, which travels to the region each year, is organized by English and Welsh bishops. After a lengthy delay at the Erez checkpoint Sunday (Jan. 11), the bishops entered Gaza, where they celebrated Mass and met Christian families and charities.

Members of the group, which included Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., said they were struck by the widespread destruction from last year’s conflict. The bishops also called for an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

“Many tens of thousands of families in Gaza lack adequate shelter. In the latest freezing weather, at least two infants died of exposure,” the bishops said.

“The continuing blockade dramatically impedes rebuilding and contributes to desperation that undermines Israelis’ legitimate hope for security. It also creates intolerable levels of unemployment and pushes ordinary people into deeper poverty. ”

The bishops urged political leaders to find “creative” ways to build peace in the Middle East and “to build bridges, not walls.”

The Israeli government conceded Friday that life in Gaza was “indeed fairly bleak” but said the poor conditions there were a “sad indictment” of the leadership of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza and is considered by both Israel and the U.S. to be a terrorist organization.

“History will judge Hamas poorly for this,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Religion News Service.

The ministry said peace was possible, but Israel had little faith in the Palestinians whom it said had violated peace deals in the past.

“These agreements, which bind both Israel and the Palestinians, require us to resolve outstanding differences through negotiations,” the statement said.

“When the Palestinians, by violating this, unashamedly tell us all that they do not abide by agreements they enter into, that doesn’t do much for our confidence.”

The ministry confirmed it had suspended the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah — not because the Palestinians had recently moved to join the International Criminal Court — but because of what it called the “fundamental violation” of all Israeli-Palestinian agreements.


About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


Click here to post a comment

  • The real reason Israel is outraged by the Palestinians joining the ICC is because they don’t want to be investigated for war crimes and want to cover up their human rights abuses.

  • There are no war crimes and Israel does not govern Gaza. As for the territory within the 1949 armistice lines, there is nothing all that remarkable about state-society relations and no more need to have some sort of pretentious international tribunal investigating them than there is to be investigating Ireland or Taiwan.

  • Isn’t that special? Does it occur to any of these gassy clerics that there is little in the way of human capital in Gaza and there never was? The place is not some latent version of Hong Kong or Singapore. It’s a welfare dump and always has been. Fully half the local income is derived from UNRWA doles.

    Even if there were substantial untapped human capital, the political order in Gaza would prevent it from ever being unlocked. The state in Gaza is a revanchist criminal enterprise willing to divert useful imports to inane and malicious exercises (cement devoted to tunnel construction, arms imports on the QT) undertaken for no other reason than they amuse the ruling elite in Gaza.

  • “The state in Gaza is a revanchist criminal enterprise willing to divert useful imports to inane and malicious exercises (cement devoted to tunnel construction, arms imports on the QT) undertaken for no other reason than they amuse the ruling elite in Gaza”

    Actually its more that that. It amuses the backers of Hamas in Iran as well. Gaza has oil and gas reserves off its coast. If not for the thug ruled Gazan government, the area would be awash in money.

    When discussing Gaza, many people forget that the region borders 2 nations. Usually people ignore Egypt’s role in the economic situation there. Arabs always get a “free pass” when it comes to treating Palestinians like crap. More Palestinians died in one month at the hands of fellow Arabs in Jordan than in the entire 48 years of conflict with Israel.