WASHINGTON-- Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, will visit the Middle East January 6-17 in support of the local Church and peace talks in the region.
Expressing solidarity with those countries seeking peace in many areas of the world, Bishop Pates echoed the words of Pope Francis in his Urbi et Orbi message, particularly addressing the violence faced in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Holy Land.
"Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance," Pope Francis said. "Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world. And I also invite non-believers to desire peace with that yearning that makes the heart grow: all united, either by prayer or by desire. But all of us, for peace."
"As I prepare to make a solidarity visit to the Middle East in support of the local Church caught in the midst of regional conflicts, I recall in a special way our Holy Father's Urbi et Orbi Christmas message in which he invoked the 'Prince of Peace' to lead people to give up their arms and 'undertake the path of dialogue,'" Bishop Pates said. "In addition to a special concern for the Church and People of Syria, Egypt, Israel and Palestine, we remain deeply concerned for South Sudan, the Central African Republic and all places that do not know God's peace."
In Israel and Palestine, he will attend a meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land. The Holy Land Coordination consists of representatives of Catholic bishops' conferences of Europe, North America, and South Africa. The group will hold sessions and make visits:
- To understand the social, political and ecclesial realities of the Holy Land
- To advocate more effectively for justice and peace
- To support the efforts of the local Church especially through the work of Catholic agencies
- To support the mission of the Apostolic Nuncio especially regarding fundamental and basic agreements.
More information on the work of the Committee on International Justice and Peace can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/index.cfm