Promote peace in the Holy Land Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Jan. 08, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

It was especially distressing to follow news of the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine during the Christmas season. How sad that the place of Jesus’ birth — the Holy Land — suffers from hostilities that seem insurmountable.

Editor's View
Mary C. Uhler

As a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, I am particularly saddened by this tragic situation in the Holy Land. Our order was founded in the 11th Century in order to protect the Christian presence in the Holy Land. Knights and Ladies of the order today help contribute to the support of the Christian parishes, schools, shrines, and charitable efforts in this area.

Catholic Church works in Holy Land

Members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre work with the Catholic Church, especially the Franciscans who have held custody of the Holy Land since 1342. (Proceeds from the Good Friday collection taken annually in U.S. parishes is used to help the Franciscans in this work.)

The Franciscans continually plead for peace in the Holy Land. "Bloodshed and violence will not bring peace; it will only further destroy family life and further endanger the economy of the land," said a statement issued on January 15, 2007, by Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Holy Land, who joined with 12 other religious leaders in urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to the negotiating table.

At that time, the religious leaders also said, "The time has come to call for intense prayer to Almighty God for peace. Instead of hurling accusations at each other, we urge everyone to pray for their neighbors in the widest possible sense."

Ecumenical prayer for peace

That was two years ago. This year, the 13 heads of churches in Jerusalem again called for prayer. They designated Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009, to be a day of prayer for justice and peace in the Holy Land. On January 4, representatives from all the churches in Jerusalem united at the Dominican priory of St. Stephen to pray together for peace in Gaza.

The call originally came from Pope Benedict XVI, who wanted to unite his prayer in Rome with prayers in the Holy Land and throughout the world.

We here in the United States can join with the people of the Holy Land and our Holy Father by praying for peace and for those suffering in this conflict.

Letter to President-elect Obama

Beyond prayer, we can also take action by signing an ecumenical letter to President-elect Barack Obama. The letter has been signed by Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

The letter urges the president-elect “to make achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority” during his first year in office. The deadline for signatures is January 16, 2009. Go to to add your signature to the letter (it took less than a minute for me to complete the process). The final letter signed by leaders and individual church members, like us, will be delivered to President Obama.

Please add your name to the Christian Call for Holy Land Peace today and urge others to support vigorous diplomatic efforts to secure a just and lasting two-state solution in the place of Jesus’ birth.

More resources

In 2005, the U.S. Catholic bishops launched their Catholic Campaign for Peace in the Holy Land. Its purpose is to promote understanding and support for a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For more on this campaign, go to

Catholic Relief Services has worked in the Holy Land for nearly 50 years supporting peace with justice for all people while responding to humanitarian and development needs. To learn more about its efforts, go to