England’s most senior Catholic, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, has spoken out about the impact of Israel’s security barrier on the lives of West Bank Palestinians.
He also referred to the “state of Palestine”, while calling on Catholics to pray for a successful outcome to Middle East peace talks.
The archbishop was speaking at a requiem mass for Dr Michael Whelan, founder of the Friends of The Holy Land charity, which supports Middle East Christians. The archbishop’s remarks came a couple of days after he met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during a brief visit to London.
In his address at Westminster Archbishop Nichols said that “poverty is an enemy of peace” and that the “removal of violence” was essential for people to prosper.
“For these reasons the peace talks between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine, which have been taking place since July, are so important,” he declared.
“They are difficult, having to face the well-known problems of security, of boundaries, of territorial occupation and settlements, illegal in international law.”
The peace talks faced “major challenges,” he said. “They need our prayers.”
Archbishop Nichols went on: “No one who has seen the security wall that divides so much of the Holy Land, cutting off people from their traditional land and means of sustenance, no one who has felt the fear and insecurity that mars that land, no one who has seen the contrast between the provision of goods on one side of a line and the lack even of a reliable source of water on the other, can have any doubt about the importance of finding this pathway to peace as soon as possible.”
The situation in Syria made “this challenge even more urgent”.
Mentioning his attendance at the installation of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis earlier this month, he echoed the new Chief’s prayers for leaders to be blessed with “the wisdom to make wise and responsible decisions”.