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SIDIC Periodical IV - 1971/2
Jerusalem, City of Peace (Pages 03 - 22)

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Towards a Better Approach to the Problem of the Holy Places
F. Delpech


The question of Jerusalem and the Holy Places cannot be considered in isolation from the rest of the problems of the Near East. The future of the Holy City, the place where the nations should come together in friendship, in actual fact constitutes one of the main areas of contention between the brothers who are quarelling like enemies over the Promised Land, one of the principal stumbling-blocks on the road to peace. Christians are usually ill-informed about the situation and too frequently talk at random about it. Many, notably those in Vatican circles, consider the best solution would be to internationalize Jerusalem, as proposed by the U.N. in 1947. This suggestion does not appear to us to be realistic, as it does not take into account the unswerving opposition of the Israelis, nor of Arab demands. Rather than pursue illusory ideas, it would be better to take another look at the whole question, in order to try to find a way out of the impasse.

It is not intended in this article to propose solutions to the question. In fact, we think there is no possible solution without genuine negotiations between the main interested parties; also, that the task of Western Christians is not that of loftily dictating ideal policies from afar, but rather, more humbly, that of being the architects of dialogue. With this as our starting point, we shall confine ourselves to suggesting a few reflections on the Holy Places, on the main issues in the problem and the reactions of Christians, in orderto make a contribution towards a better approach to the discussion and a rectification of the Christian attitude.


The expression « Holy Places » is used in very different ways and, above all, with widely varying overtones from person to person. Before making any analysis, therefore, the meaning of words must be made clear. It is not possible to dwell here on the exact theological meaning of this concept as this would take us too far. But we must ask what people mean when they speak of the Holy Places.

A. The Concept of the Holy Places in Present-Day Language

In the broad sense, the reference is clearly to the whole of Palestine, the « Holy Land ». This is the primary meaning, the biblical meaning. For the sacred authors, the Land is « holy », not in itself, but because it was the Lord's chosen setting for Revelation, the focal point of the whole of the history of mankind and the setting for the signs which are to herald the end of time.

In a more restricted sense, it refers to great centres of worship and pilgrimage. This is the most current meaning, at least in countries with a Christian tradition. The feeling of the holiness of the Land has, in fact, become rather indistinct. There are only a few well-defined places which are now looked upon as holy, not in themselves, but because the Lord revealed himself there. The devotion of the faithful crystallized itself around these places in very early times, and generations of believers visited them to seek the Word of God, in the steps of the prophets, apostles, and saints.

There are about two hundred Christian holy places in Palestine. But every religion has its own. The most important are known the world over: for the Jews, the Western Wall, remnant of the base of Solomon's Temple (incorrectly called the Wailing Wall); for Christians, the Basilica of the Nativity at Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem; for the Moslems, the esplanade of the Temple, or Haram esh-Sharif, with the Dome of the Rock (incorrectly called the Mosque of Omar) and the El Aqsa mosque.

These two meanings – the biblical one of the holiness of the Land, and the modern one referring to the revered character of the places of pilgrimage — do not exclude each other, but are complementary and closely linked in people's minds. The modern concept of a Holy Place implies a whole biblical background, which varies according to religions and individuals.

B. The Concept of Holy Place in the Three Great Biblical Religions

1. Jewish Tradition

In Judaism there has always been a universal and very deep attachment to the Holy Land and, above all, for Jerusalem. This attachment springs from fidelity to the Bible, read time and again through the centuries both as a spiritual source and as a history of the nation. For the Jews, Palestine is the Land where the Lord established his people, the Land which he assigned to it as its inheritance .« for ever » (Gen. 17:8; Dt. 4:40).

It is to Jerusalem that the Messiah will come to restore Israel and this coming will be the prelude to the end of time. This tradition has been reinforced by centuries of suffering and exile during which the Jews have never ceased to turn their eyes towards Jerusalem, so that, for the majority, Palestine is not merely a land, nor even the Holy Land, but the place of Israel's destiny (Eretz Israel). This attachment can assume a number of very different guises, religious or secular, Zionist or non-Zionist, moderate or uncompromising. But it is always rooted in the deepest level of Jewish self-awareness.

In passing, to give the lie to an old anti-Semitic slander (which stems from total ignorance of Judaism, unfortunately all too frequent), let it be noted that we are not speaking of a feeling which is fetishistic and theocratic. This danger does exist, but Jews are well aware that the Land is not a holy thing in itself, that the Promise does not confer unlimited rights on them, and that it entails formidable obligations. God alone is Holy and the holiness of Eretz Israel appears as an ideal to be achieved: the Land will be holy when the justice and faithfulness of Israel respond fully to the justice and faithfulness of the Lord. Then the Messiah will come and reign over the nations effectively reconciled in Jerusalem.

2. Christian Tradition

For Christians, .Palestine is also the Land of Revelation, the country of Israel, but above all it is Jesus' homeland and that of the first disciples. The concept of the Holy Land, of attachment to Jerusalem, subsists, but in a limited and relative way. The Gospel and tradition insist on the idea that the Messiah has already come, and that God is everywhere that men come together to pray in his name and to serve their neighbour. The Messiah will return to found a new Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth, but this eschatological dimension is normally much less strong than in Judaism and the location much less clearly determined. Most Christians, in the last analysis, look upon the Holy Places simply as centres of pilgrimage and devotion.

Furthermore, attachment to the Holy Places varies considerably. It is very much alive in traditional circles, notably in the East and in those countries where external manifestations of piety play a major part in popular devotion. This sometimes goes to the lengths of a real fetishism for stones and pilgrimages. Apart from this excess, there is an attitude to be respected here, but this tradition is often criticized by those who set more store on the interior life, and by those who react against everything which has the appearance of a Christian heritage. This is the case of most Protestants and many western Catholics. This critical attitude is tending to become more general in the modern world undergoing an accelerated process of secularization.

Devotion to the Holy Places has not disappeared for all that and every now and again there is a revival. Frequently there are rather sentimental and pietistic revivals among protestant sects and small conservative groups. But there are also admirable pilgrimages to the sources, made by those who strive to reflect on their faith, without fleeing from the world, in a spirit of fidelity and ecumenism. Christians who return to Jerusalem, or quite simply to the biblical sources, can discover that the holiness of the Land is not something given, but something to be brought about by a daily struggle for peace, justice and universal reconciliation in a renewed messianic perspective. Here we have a possible meeting point with Judaism.

3. Moslem Tradition

Heir both to the Jewish and to the Christian traditions, in its own special way, Islam too is attached to both the Holy Land and to a certain number of Holy Places, partly for religious reasons, but still more for national and political reasons. For Moslems, Palestine is not the only Holy Land, but it does remain the land of the first prophets. Jerusalem is not the focal point of the Moslem community, but it is the place of the Last

Judgement. At the end of his life, Mohammed is said to have come to the esplanade of the Temple, mounted on his winged mare, Barak, and to have ascended to Heaven from the site of the Dome of the Rock. A century and a half later, the fifth omayyad caliph of Damascus, Abd El Malek, made Jerusalem his religious capital and undertook the construction of the two great mosques of Haram Esh-Sharif to fight against the preponderance of the Shi'ite Imams of Mecca. Believers come to meditate, and, like the Jews, to be buried at the foot of the holy hill, as close as possible to the place of Judgement. Jerusalem is still looked upon today as the third Holy City of Islam, after Mecca and Medina.

This tradition has always gathered strength from the feeling, always very strong in the whole of the Moslem world, of belonging to the Islamic community, the Umma. After several centuries of eclipse, this feeling revived and, some fifty years later, reached a peak through the intrusion of foreign forces and the development of pan-Arab nationalism, with its successes and, even more, its repeated set-backs. From now on, Palestine was looked upon as a lost province. The resulting frustration, anger and despair were profound. The quesiton of the Holy Places was relegated to the background. Nevertheless, it still continued to make itself sharply felt.


The situation has always been particularly complex and unstable. But there have always been three major difficulties: the status of the Holy Places, rivalries between Christian communities, and the claims of the Jews and Arabs.

A. Status of the Holy Places

This question dates back to the fall of the Byzantine Empire. In 638, the Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem. From that time on, apart from short intervals, the Holy Places have always been in the hands of non-Christian powers, whose attitude towards minorities has varied a good deal. The first conqueror showed great tolerance, which his successors did not always imitate. The Moslem authorities looking on Jews and Christians as peoples of the Book, yet not altogether as true believers, gave them the ambiguous status of dhimmis, that is to say, second-class citizens to whom real protection was granted, but haughtily and, above all, very precariously. Pilgrimages were authorized, even encouraged, as they were a considerable source of revenue by taxation. But the minority religions remained at the mercy of relatively frequent outbreaks of intolerance, especially at times of political crisis.

In these conditions, the great problem was always to obtain from those in power a minimum of guarantees to ensure freedom of worship, free access to the sanctuaries and safety of people and property. What is more, those involved quickly began to hope that these guarantees should, if possible, become international, to provide against possible difficulties and changes of regime. These hopes were partly fulfilled, thanks to the political decline of Islam and to interventions by European powers; but, for all that, not every problem was solved.

B. Rivalries between Christian Communities

Every Church and every rite is represented in the Holy Land. Over the centuries, representatives of all the Churches and many sects have joined themselves to the local communities of Orthodox or Eastern Catholics. These communities have always argued over the faithful and the Holy Places in a truly scandalous way, and this rivalry has been further aggravated by violent racial and political conflicts and by the greed of foreign powers, which have sought to extend their influence by support — one side against another.

The results of this strife are only too well known. To give only a single example, the Holy Sepulchre is portioned out between the Greeks, the Latins and the Armenians, with two little en- closures for the Syrians and the Copts. For a long time, it was impossible to keep the Basilica in good condition, or to carry out the most basic repairs, as the occupants could not come to any agreement about them. There was a time when these ridiculous quarrels gave rise to an atmosphere of smouldering religious war, and sometimes issued in armed conflict. Thanks to the patient efforts of diplomats and, above all, to the ecumenical movement, these quarrels seem to be in the process of calming down. But the lull is recent and still precarious, because these communities, which are too numerous, are often short of men and are in danger of dying out.

D. The Claims of the Jews and Arabs

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the quest for a satisfactory juridical status, and the question of rivalries between Christians became secondary considerations in the light of the demands made by Israel and Ishmael. These latter give rise to infinitely more serious problems. Christians can confine their ambitions to a reasonably secure presence in certain well-defined spiritual centres. But Jews and Arabs lay equal claim to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. It is not merely a question of fulfilling a religious aspiration, but of claims bitterly reinforced by Israel's terrible adversities, by Ishmael's sufferings and by almost half a century of confrontation and armed conflict.

Faced with a complicated situation, western Christians must refrain from making hasty judgements. There is nothing to be gained by confidently and summarily denouncing excessive Jewish and Arab nationalism and the resulting politico-religious confusion; as if we ourselves had not made the same mistakes over long periods; as if we were not continuing to make similar ones. It is wiser to question oneself on the reactions and what profoundly motivates each side. The drama of the Near East can only be understood if the combined factors are kept constantly in mind. The only possible solution is one which seeks to satisfy every legitimate claim, insofar as this does not lead to the destruction of the other side. In other words, it is perfectly legitimate to seek guarantees for the Holy Places and to work for reconciliation between Christians. But it is also necessary to do justice to the Jews and Arabs. Clearly, this is like squaring a circle, but it is at this price alone that Jerusalem will cease to be a stumbling block and will, at last, be able to fulfill its vocation of peace and holiness, by contributing to the reconciliation of all the children of Abraham, which is the Judaeo-Christian hope.

It is clear that Christians should work in this direction. Some have made effective efforts towards it. But unfortunately most see only one side of the problem and take up extremely one-sided positions. This has always been the case, but more particularly since the creation of the State of Israel.


Christian reactions towards the Holy Places have always been varied, uncertain, and, apparently at least, have developed considerably over the centuries. In fact, the Church is neither monolithic nor other-worldly. It is formed from local communities living in very different human, religious, and political conditions and with very different reactions. Frequently, the positions adopted by ecclesiastical authorities are a reflection of this; the Pope, bishops and priests (or pastors) in principle take their stand on the same spiritual and pastoral concerns; but they cannot fail to take into account the diverse feelings of the faithful and of the political scene. This is particularly true in Rome. Above all else, the Pope is the universal Teacher and Pastor, but he is also head of a State and at the head of an immense international organization. Every day he is subjected to the influence of the bishops, nuncios and diplomats of the Curia, all of whom are particularly sensitive to the incalculable results attached to the smallestaction taken by the Pontiff. Conflicting pressures from these sources do not facilitate evangelical audacity, especially in questions as complicated as those of the Near East. We cannot here probe the secrets of the Church's policy in the Holy Land. But, by simplifying, we can discern four main periods leading to the creation of the State of Israel. From these we will retain only certain fundamental features, which continue to have a bearing on the current situation.

A. The Beginnings

From the time of the finding of the Cross and the building of Constantine's Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre until the end of the eleventh century, popular devotion and pilgrimages steadily increased despite several set-backs. The concerns of the local Christian communities were not the same as those of Latin Christianity. Living within the thrust of hellenic thought and the Byzantine state, they attached less importance to politico-religious organization and were, instead, caught up in great theological and mystical speculations. Proud of belonging to the homeland of Jesus, they did not support the claims of the Emperor of Byzantium, but were ready enough to welcome the Moslem conquest. Caliph Omar and his early successors respected freedom of worship and pilgrimages, and eastern Christians gradually took on an Arabic character.

Difficulties began in the eighth century when Islam became less tolerant. The Patriarchs of Jerusalem began to look for outside protection. They did not appeal to Rome – the Papacy was weak and had, as yet, no policy in regard to the Holy Places — but to Christian states: Byzantium, the Carolingian Empire or the Republic of Venice. These protectors intervened effectively, but from a distance and spasmodically. Moreover, they took advantage of the situation to establish commercial links with the East. The results were sometimes successful, sometimes disastrous (the execution of the Patriarch in 966, the persecution of Al Hakim from 1008 to 1021). This was the beginning of the intrusion of foreign powers into the question of the Holy Places.

B. The Crusades

The situation deteriorated at the end of the eleventh century with the arrival of the Seljuk Turks (even more intolerant and, what was worse, more war-like than their predecessors), and through the development of the western Church and the stiffening of its attitude. At the beginning of 1095, Pope Urban II replied to the Moslem Holy War (Jihad) by preaching a crusade. Details of the expeditions and the precise history of the Latin Kingdom are of no interest for the compass of this article. On the other hand, the spirit which animated the Crusades is very important for the understanding of subsequent events. The doctrine was brutally simple: Christians have rights in the Holy Land; infidels have none; they must be driven out by all and any means. At that period, this seemed perfectly normal; there was general enthusiasm throughout Christendom. The results were absolutely disastrous. The Crusaders plundered everything on their way, despite the pleas of a St. Bernard. Not only did they attack the Turks, but also the Jews and the Eastern Christians. In 1099, Jerusalem was captured and sacked. In 1204, the fourth Crusade took Constantinople and the remnants of the Byzantine Empire. Thirst for adventure and plunder drove them on, beyond all other consideration. Spiritually, it was a veritable catastrophe which is still remembered in the East.

The spirit of the Crusades did not disappear overnight after this series of defeats. Again and again, the Popes called for the Cross to be taken up against the Ottomans in the sixteenth, and even in the seventeenth, centuries. Generally, they came up against indifference within the civil states which had come into existence on the remnants of dismembered Christendom. But the idea that the Church had rights over the Holy Places and that she was obliged to defend them againstthe infidels lived on, at least in a modified form, until well into the twentieth century. The reactions of the Franciscans is typical in this respect. Sent to the Holy Land to serve the Church, no longer with arms but with charity, with poor means, they devoted themselves to worship and pilgrims with admirable courage and self-denial, but very soon they were induced to acquire sanctuaries and to defend the rights of the Latins with unrelenting harshness.

C. Capitulations

From the end of the Middle Ages to the middle of the nineteenth century, the situation improved gradually. Christians adopted a more flexible, a more realistic attitude. They did not renounce the rights of the Church, but saw the need of coming to terms with power: we have here the famous distinction between thesis and hypothesis. This sudden change was the work, not so much of the Papacy, whose political influence was in decline, but of local communities which had once more come under the yoke of Islam, and who had to appeal to the good will of the authorities and to outside support. Generally speaking, the Sultans and high-ranking Ottoman officials turned out to be good rulers, in return for the payment of high taxation. They agreed to negotiate with France and recognized her right to protect Christian minorities, again in return for substantial compensation. The first treaty concluded between Suleiman the Magnificent and Francois I (« Capitulations » of 1535) was mainly directed against the Hapsburgs, but the reconciliation thus initiated survived the destruction of the common enemy. The Capitulations were renewed on several occasions, and moved progressively to a sort of French protectorate for the Holy Places.

This solution made relative peace possible, but it was not without drawbacks. The question of rivalry between the eastern Christian communities had not been settled. On the contrary, it had been aggravated by the intervention of states which sought to obtain privileges similar to those of France, in order to develop their trading and political influence, and which tried to take advantage of the slow decline of the Ottoman Empire and the periodical eclipses of French diplomacy. The details of these events are of no concern here. Broadly, there was first of all an upsurge of Greek hellenism in the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, because the Sultans held the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople in favour, because they could control it more easily. The Latins, that is to say the Franciscans, upheld by France, reacted strenuously from 1740 on. They soon came up against Russia, which was giving active support to the Greek-Arabs and to the body of Orthodox communities, in an attempt to become, in its turn, a Mediterranean power. Incidents were frequent and took on increasingly alarming proportions. The disappearance of a silver star placed by the Franciscans in the grotto at Bethlehem was at the root of the Crimean War, which ended with the Russian defeat of 1855. The Czars did not give up their ambitions for all that, but the temporary humiliation of Russia was detrimental to the interests of the Orthodox communities. On the other hand, the French-English victory contributed decisively to the progress of the Latins, and also to that of the first Protestant missions.

The policy of the Capitulations was equally unsatisfactory in that it did not take sufficient account of the feelings of non-Christians. Nothing was done for the Jews, whose position remained precarious, and who only too often were the victims of long-standing anti-Semitic calumnies, such as ritual murder (for example, at Damascus in 1840). Moslems, for the most part, seemed to be resigned to the decline of Ottoman power, but later, the advantages obtained by the protecting powers were to be resented as so many humiliations by the first precursors of Islamic awakening.

D. Internationalization and Defense of Rights

The main new events following on the Crimean War, were the aggravation of the problem of internationalization of the Holy Places, which were slipping more and more out of the hands of the Sultan, and the re-entry of the Papacy onto the scene. The latter had the advantage of the vitality of Catholicism, the prestige conferred on the throne of Peter by the proclamation of papal infallibility and the strong personalities of the successive Popes, from Pius IX to Pius XII. These Popes were in general uncompromising in doctrinal matters; it was the period of the great condemnations of liberalism and of the modern world, from the Syllabus to the encyclical Humani Generis. But nearly all were excellent diplomats, who vigorously intervened in international negotiations, every time the question of the Holy Land was raised, in order to defend the rights of the Catholic Church and to reclaim certain sanctuaries, held at one time by the Latin Church, and which had later passed into the hands of the Greeks. Naturally, Russia came to the defense of the latter, and, at the time of the Berlin Conference in 1878 and the Convention of Mytilena in 1901, the ruling powers decided to maintain the status quo, which was quite an achievement.

On the spot, the Papacy actively upheld the Latin Patriarchate (created of old by the Crusaders and which disappeared with them, and was restored in 1847 in favour of the Franciscans). At the request of Popes and Patriarchs, many religious congregations founded houses in Jerusalem. Pilgrimages and various works took on remarkable vigour. There was still much friction with other confessions, but nothing to be compared with past struggles. The endeavours of diplomats helped to solve some lawsuits (secondary ones, it must be admitted) by compromise between the Christian communities involved. In short, Catholic author-ties adapted themselves well enough to the status quo, even while still officially considering it inadequate.

This policy, firm about the principles, flexible, patient and persevering in their application, was loudly affirmed after the first World War. (Through the crumbling of the Ottoman empire, the birth of new states in the Near East which unanimously denounced the Capitulations and theeclipse of France and Russia, the status of the Holy Places was again called into question, at least on a legal level). For the first time since the Crusades, the Holy Land was in the hands of a Christian power, but England had no other title to its administration than the right of conquest. Immediately anxious, the Greeks and Latins sent long contradictory memorandums to the Peace Conference to defend their traditional claims. Intervening, in its turn, in the negotiations, the Papacy tried to bring about a long-term settlement and to ensure its guarantee by the League of Nations. Partial satisfaction was obtained at the time of the discussion of the terms of the mandate in 1922. Vis-a-vis the League of Nations, England undertook to respect the status quo and to make it respected. At one point, there was even question of establishing an international control commission, but the project came to nothing, because the English wanted a Protestant president, which the Catholics would not accept. In short, England, purely and simply, replaced the Ottoman empire. The situation of Christian Churches was in no way changed, because England took great care to respect acquired rights. But the Pope and the Patriarchate continued to call for international control, and in this they were supported by a party of Orthodox dignitaries.

This attitude contributed to reducing dissensions between Christian communities who take the habit of pulling together in order to harmonize their policies. But this attitude had the disadvantage of not taking into account non-Christian feelings, at least, as far as the Jews were concerned. Relations with Islam steadily improved once Christians had nothing more to fear from the Sultan's capriciousness. The hierarchy worked hard to establish good relations with Moslem and Arab leaders. On the other hand, she manifested hostility to the creation of a Jewish national homeland There were many reasons for this, the principal being undoubtedly the persistance of longstanding theological anti-Judaism, aggravated by anti-Semitic campaigns at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

Most Christians of the period were unaware of, or despised the Jews, remaining in general, indifferent to their trials, and disregarding the depths of their attachment to the Promised Land. The birth of Zionism was, by and large, received with astonishment and reprobation. The revolutionary modernism of the first settlers, their dynamism and efficiency very quickly shocked and disquieted people, particularly in Jerusalem, where Jews, according to the 1912 census, constituted 64.4% of the population. Latins and Greeks were afraid that their Holy Places would fall into Jewish hands, a situation which seemed unthinkable to them. The Zionist leaders promised not to touch these Holy Places and increased their appeals for fraternal co-existence. But so deeply rooted are old prejudices that ecclesiastical authorities, in general, did not believe in their sincerity, and untiringly reaffirmed the superiority of the rights o' the Church and the need for an international guarantee.

Pontifical reactions faithfully reflected these prejudices and fears. In 1904 Herzl asked for an audience with Pius X, to explain his programme. He received a courteous, but absolutely categoric refusal. According to Herzl, Pius X had this to say (a typical example of anti-Judaism): « The Jews did not recognise Our Lord; consequently, we cannot recognise the Jewish people ». In 1917, another Zionist leader, Sokolov turned to the Vatican. He was treated much better by the new Pope. Benedict XV was a man open, compassionate towards the persecuted, and certainly one of the great Popes of history. Benedict XV protested against the Balfour Declaration and re-affirmed the rights of the Church in an allocution to the Secret consistory of December, 1922: « Our apostolic charge makes it a duty to demand that the rights of the Catholic Church in Palestine –where they are so manifestly superior to the rights of others involved — should be respected and safeguarded prior to all others; not only the claims of Jews and infidels, but those of members of non-Catholic confessions, no matter what their race and country ». The intransigence of this pro posal, and the triumphalist tone are absolutely characteristic. Pius XI was not a fanatic. He condemned anti-Semitism, but he reacted in the affair of the Holy Places exactly in the same way as the majority of Christians before him had done. Basically, the spirit of the Crusades had not completely disappeared. The manner of acting had changed, but doctrine remained fundamentally intolerant. This must be the starting point for an understanding of later developments.


The birth of the State of Israel obviously constitutes the principal turning point in the history of the Holy Land since the Arab conquest and the failure of the Crusades. It was an outstanding event: basically, it was the re-entrance on the stage of the foremost of the three great religions of the Bible, or, more correctly – because Israel is not the whole of Judaism — of a part of the Jewish people, until then held on leading strings for almost twenty centuries. But it meant also rejection by the Arabs, the Palestinian drama, endemic war and general confusion of concepts about Near East problems.

The impact on the Christian conscience was also very great. Israel raised questions. The JudaeoArab conflict raised questions. The fate of Jerusalem raised questions. The official attitude of ecclesiastical authorities was developing very slowly, but repeated crises were gradually forcing Christians to self-examination and to take stands. Naturally, they adopted varied positions, and serious divergences came to light from within most of the Churches. This evolution is relatively recent, and, consequently, difficult to analyze, as we are too close to the events to be really objective about them. We can, however, try to investigate Christian reactions to the principal events of the last few years.

A. The U.N. Decision of November 29, 1947

It is impossible to recall here, even briefly, the complex circumstances of Israel's revival. But, it must be remembered, at least, that it is the first state in history to result from an international debate, and a unanimous vote, also that the Churches intervened on several occasions.

The solution adopted by the U.N. on November 29, 1947 by thirty-three votes (including those of the United States, U.S.S.R., and France) against thirteen (the Arab states) and ten abstentions (including Great Britain), constituted an attempt at compromise between all those involved. The solution rested on two essential principles: the division of the Holy Land into a Jewish state, and an Arab-Palestinian state; and the internationalization of the region of Jerusalem and Bethlehem (which ought to have constituted a corpus separatum administered by a government nominated by the U.N.). Like many compromise solutions, it met with vehement protests. The Jews accepted division so as to be able, finally, to found a state, but the frontiers suggested were impracticable, and many made claim to Jerusalem, which all considered as their capital, and whose population was Jewish in majority. The adverse camp rejected all division and the corpus separatum. The Arab League refused to cede one inch of ground and prepared to invade the country in order to drive out the Zionists. Caught between two fires, the Palestinians dared hardly express their opinions. Among the Christians, equally divided in opinion, the main preoccupation for many was, above all, the Holy Places.

Most of the faithful, especially in the West, favoured division. Distressed by the discovery of the genocide, captivated by the exploits of the pioneers and the Haganah, western Christians considered the creation of the State of Israel as an elementary act of justice. They unanimously disapproved Arab violence. Over and above all this, they believed, as did the U.N. and many Zionist leaders, that the Palestinian problem could be solved by the constitution of a second state and by a Judaeo-Arab federation. But Oriental Christians were much more reticent. The local Churches, with mainly Arab membership, were influenced both by ancient tradition of theological anti-Judaism and by Arab League propaganda. The Latin clergy dreaded as much as did the Greek clergy, the eventual seizure of the Holy Places by the Jews. The Franciscan Custodian, Alberto Gori, consulted on several occasions by successive U.N. commissions of enquiry, always manifested absolute hostility to Zionism. A section of the western clergy also shared these fears and hostility, especially in Rome, where anti-Judaism remained very strong. The Vatican did not have to intervene officially in the question of division but Pius XII, and the diplomats of the Secretariate of State, gave full support to Father Gori, who was named Patriarch at the end of 1947.

The project of corpus separatum was much better received by ecclesiastical milieux in, general. The idea was not new. The English had thought of a similar formula as far back as 1937 so as to ensure the safety both of the sanctuaries and of pilgrims, and to keep a zone of influence within the country, but they completely renounced the idea of the absolute opposition of the Arab leaders. The project was reconsidered in 1947, in a very different spirit. The members of the commission responsible for bringing it to a conclusion were, in the main, Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons, nearly all Protestants and idealists, who ardently believed in the mission of the U.N. Their aim in proposing the internationalization of Jerusalem was certainly to resolve, once and for all, the problem of the Holy Places; but it was a question also of giving the international organization the means of playing a permanent peace-making role in the region. The Vatican and most of the Churches rallied at once to this policy, which fulfilled and even surpassed their desires. The resolution of November 29 guaranteed, in effect, all the existing rights. In addition, the corpus separatum, in theory, had to give the Christians of Jerusalem and Bethlehem the assurance of complete independence with regard to Jews and Arabs. To these considerations of the interested parties, was added the sincere conviction which was very widespread in ecclesiastical circles, notably in Rome, that the United Nations had an important role to play in constructing the peace.

These reactions are understandable. The thesis of internationalization can appear very attractive at a first glance, but the disadvantages very soon begin to appear. On the one hand, it does not take Jewish and Arab aspirations sufficiently into account, and, on the other, it presupposes a powerful and respected united international organization. The Arab armies invaded the country immediately after the departure of the British troops. The United Nations did not succeed in imposing its powers of arbitration. Once more the fate of the Holy Land was to be decided, by the fortunes of war.

In spite of their numerical inferiority, the Israelis succeeded in creating their state, in repelling the assaults, keeping, and even slightly extending their territory. The fighting was particularly violent in Jerusalem where the Jewish population was encircled. The Arab Legion took possession of the Old City, but the arrival of reinforcements allowed the Israelis to save most of the capital. The Armistice agreements signed at the beginning of 1949, constituted a simple cease fire on the positions acquired. The Arab states refused, in fact, to recognize Israel. Jordan took advantage of the situation to annex the Old City to Cis-Jordan, in defiance of all laws. This annexation put the seal on the division of Jerusalem, and deprived the Palestinians of all possibility of constituting a state. Insidious war succeeded to open war.

B. The Period of the Division of Jerusalem and of Insidious War

The division of the Holy Land into two hostile societies, brought about innumerable difficulties both for Jews and Arabs, and, in a lesser degree, for Christians.

The Israelis had just gained their first great victory, but their fellow-Jews were gradually being driven out of the Islamic world by a rising tide of anti-Semitism, and unexpected attacks of persecution. The survivors of the death camps and immigrants from Moslem countries could fulfill their national aspirations in Israel, but they lived under constant menace, and they could not visit their Holy Places. The Old City was rigorously forbidden them. The Jordanian occupants pillaged the Jewish quarter, destroying synagogues and profaning Israeli cemeteries.

For the Palestinians there was misery and humiliation. The Arabs who remained in Israel were enjoying real liberty, and a more or less decent economic status, but, obviously, their situation was very delicate. The fate of those who fled was even worse. Israel subordinated any decision on their position until peace was concluded. Feudal Arabs refused to integrate them, and left them in refugee camps financed by the U.N. in order to keep hatred of Israel alive.

The Churches did not escape the consequences of the war. Freedom of worship was still allowed in Israel, as in Jordan, but Christian Arabs suffered as much as the Moslems from economic difficulties and the political crisis. The status of the Holy Places was not brought up, in spite of several inevitable incidents during the war of 1948, because everyone was interested in maintaining religious peace, and in the development of pilgrimages. But the division of the country hindered communications. Ecclesiastical authorities were deferentially treated everywhere, but their political influence declined, and they lamented the failure of the corpus separatum. The Latins were especially bitter.

Western Christians did not all react in the same way. The majority of the faithful followed the development of the Jewish state with real sympathy. The Vatican and many of the clergy on the contrary, espoused the griefs of the East-erns.

Pius XII intervened very early on, notably by two great encyclicals In Multiplicibus (October, 1948) and Redemptoris Nostri (April, 1949). He launched several appeals in favour of peace and of the refugees, as his role demanded. He refused to recognize Israel officially, which was not at all extraordinary; Vatican diplomacy, in fact, only recognizes states whose frontiers are the result of uncontested international agreements. But the Pope went still further. He protested against the division of Jerusalem, and spoke once more in favour of the internationalization of the city « which in the present circumstance, would seem to be a better guarantee for the protection of the sanctuaries » (In Multiplicibus).

This was not an isolated reaction. The idea of an international solution, in fact, still had many partisans in the U.N. In December, 1949, the General Assembly confided to the Trusteeship Council the preparation of a scheme for a status. Two interesting counterpropositions were then advanced. France suggested that the fate of Jerusalem should be left in suspense, and to grant extra-territorial privileges only to the Holy Places. Israel at once approved the principle of a limited internationalization, but Jordan, which controlled most of the sanctuaries, categorically opposed the suggestion. In view of this refusal, Sweden proposed a simple international guarantee of the status quo, as in the past. France, Israel, and three Arab states rallied to this realistic thesis, but those who still nostalgically desired a corpus separatum would not entertain the idea. The Churches themselves were very divided. The Greeks, Armenians and Protestants were willing to confine their ambitions to a limited extra-territoriality or to a simple guarantee. The Latins and the Vatican, on the contrary, remained intransigent. Finally the debate came to a sudden end and the United Nations gave up any idea of intervention. By asking too much, nothing had been gained.

The question lost some of its actuality during the following years. Officially the religious authorities held to their opinions. But everyday life demanded adaptations. Christian communities were often forced to adapt to the actual situation and to seek out a modus vivendi with both Israel and Jordan. Moreover, they were encouraged in this by the two governments, which did their utmost to shield the Churches, and by pontifical diplomacy which once again tried to preserve the status quo. The return to traditional methods made it possible to improve relations with the Jewish state and, still more, with the Hashemite Kingdom.

This rapprochement, which was more discernible in Jordan, was linked to a decisive transformation: having for so long suffered the traumatic experiences of Moslem violence, the Vatican and Eastern Christians gradually overcame their prejudice against Islam and accepted quite favourably the development of Arab nationalism. They particularly appreciated the Hashemite government for its moderate policy, which was favourable to the Churches and to the West.

On the contrary they remained very reserved towards Israel, partly for political reasons, because of the rapprochement with the Arab world, but above all, for reasons of a psychological order. Christians living in this country were a foreign minority within a world which they still misunderstood, and which they continued to distrust, even though they had no reasons for complaint against the religious policy of the government. Their fears were maintained by the vehement hostility of the Israelis against all that recalled the proselytism of former times. Jews converted to Christianity and some Protestant sects were very badly accepted. Obliged to give up all missionary activity, the Churches tended to close in on themselves, as they were completely unprepared for the necessary changes. They adapted much better in Arab countries, where, although they met with similar difficulties, they had not the same claims.

A few Christians, of Jewish descent, or who had come from countries of the West did their utmost to overcome their prejudices in order to share in the common effort and to live their faith as loyal Israelis, according to the best Christian teaching. In so doing, they discovered Jewish culture from within, and little by littleformed a Hebrew-speaking community. Encouraged by the general evolution of the Church at the time of John XXIII, they actively participated in the struggle against prejudice, and in Jewish-Christian dialogue. This courageous attitude won them the esteem and the friendship of discerning Israelis. But they were few and remained isolated members of the local Churches, which were much more influenced by Arab Christians and by the old theological and political anti-Judaism.

This ultra-conservatism was very obvious during the second Vatican council, at the moment when the immense majority of the Fathers finally reacted against the teaching of contempt. The declaration on the Jews, adopted almost unanimously at the end of arduous discussions, censured anti-Semitism and encouraged « mutual knowledge and esteem ». It was not the land of Israel that was in question, but it was obvious that the declaration was an important step forward towards the recognition of Judaism. It was well received by the majority of Western Christians and by the little Hebrew-speaking community. But Eastern bishops and diplomats from the Secretariate of State were among the principal opposers. Cardinal Cicognani even tried to prevent the adoption of the text, after the insistent interventions of the Syrian, Copt and Melkite patriarchs (supported by representatives of the Latin Church and the Maronites). These steps seem to have been dictated not only through fear of Arab reactions, but also through the prejudices of these venerable prelates who were opposed to the Jews and to the State of Israel. The Council proceeded, but the declaration was somewhat watered down to appease the Eastern prelates, who nonetheless did not lay down their arms. The final vote did not change much. Each held to his position.

All this is understandable, when the weight of the past is taken into consideration, but the effect was again disastrous. Jewish milieux, unaccustomed to Roman subtleties, had difficulty in accepting the fact that the Vatican had not recognised Israel. The initiatives of John XXIII were received with hope and appreciation. But the persistent bias of one section of ecclesiastical circles caused profound disappointment. Bitterness was all the greater that Israel felt abandoned in her hour of danger.

C. The June 1967 Crisis

The Six Days' War raised all these questions again. The full extent of the consequences was not immediately apparent. The sudden outbreak of the war and the rapid Israeli victory aroused considerable emotion throughout the whole world. These facts have to be briefly mentioned in order to appreciate the Churches' reactions at their true value.

On the eve of the conflict most Western countries were favourably disposed towards Israel. The Jewish state appeared weak and menaced in its very existence. The leaders (Levi Eshkol, Abba Eban) were appreciated for their moderation, while the turbulent discourses of the Arab leaders, some of whom spoke of driving the Jews into the sea, aroused general reprobation and deep anxiety.

During the fighting world-wide public opinion received surprise after surprise. The Israeli exploits and the reunification of Jerusalem caused amazement and aroused enthusiasm in the West. The first declarations of the victors in favour of a compromise peace seemed to sanction every hope. Many people believed in good faith that Israel was going to give back what it had won, and hold out its hand to the Arabs, while these latter, learning from their repeated defeats, would agree to negotiate. Many hoped that Jerusalem would, at last, become the city of peace and of reconciliation. But the hoped for miracle did not take place, and the sequel to these events gave the lie to these optimistic dreams.

After the cease-fire, the Arab governments refused in fact to negotiate. The Israeli government refused in its turn to give back the conquered territories, as long as the Arabs would not recognise Israel and conclude a negotiated peace. Completely bypassed, more divided than ever, the U.N., in the famous resolutions of June 29 and November 22, 1967, sanctioned a return to the former situation and the opening of consultations, under its auspices. But the U.N. was incapable of imposing arbitration. The two great powers consolidated their zones of influence and rearmed their respective partners. The cold war continued. Deep disillusionment spread throughout the world.

Christians followed the development of the crisis with passionate interest, because many felt so deeply involved in it. They too experienced successive waves of anxiety and relief, of hope and disillusionment. However, they were still divided in opinion, and the first reactions of the Church witnessed above all to the extrardinary permanence of her feelings and behaviour towards Israel.

During the dramatic days which preceded the war, Christians shared the general anxiety but hesitated about the attitude to adopt. Millions of men waited and, as is always the case in times of great crisis, confusedly hoped for the intervention of prominent spiritual leaders. But the Churches were reluctant to take a stand in political affairs, because they had done this so often and so mistakenly in the past. Faced with this imminent danger, some associations of Christians and Jews, some Catholic bishops and Protestant pastors, notably in France and the Low Countries, tardily decided to launch timid appeals for peace and mutual recognition. But these voices were few. The Vatican and the Eastern Churches were silent. Paul VI did no more than deplore, during a public audience, « that the land of Jesus should once more be in danger ». The silence of the bishops in Arab countries was understandable, because of the formidable pressure exerted on them. But the Vatican's discretion was felt painfully in Israel and in the whole Jewish world (where it was compared, rightly or wrongly, to the semi-silence of another Pope at the time of the Nazi persecution).

Sides continued to be taken during the war and the weeks which followed it. Most of the Western countries were in favour of Israel. Their essential motiviation was the legtimate fear of another genocide; but many were influenced by anti-Arab prejudice, which was widespread in public opinion. The immense majority of Eastern countries, on the contrary, veered to the Arab camp, by natural solidarity, but also because of traditional anti-Judaism and bitterness towards the West. The hasty, often unconsidered, declarations of the one and the other, brought to light the divisions and tares in the Christian world.

From both sides there were appeals to religious, theocratic arguments. Scripture was used to justify political choices. Some friends of the Jews, fewer than was later stated, invoked the promise made to Abraham to incite Christians to uphold Israel (without necessarily falling into hatred of Islam). Some friends of the Arabs, on the contrary, denied the Jews all right of national existence, based on a contrary concept of salvation history. On June 18 a group of theologians in Beyrouth declared that the Jewish people « was not a people with a temporal and political destiny ». There was some truth in this statement, but it needed amplifying. But from this the very serious conclusion was drawn that the creation of an exclusively Jewish Israeli state was directly contrary to the plan of God ». These theologians disclaimed all anti-Semitism, and no doubt, they were sincere. Nonetheless, they were still using the ancient language of the Crusades and of anti-Jewish polemics.

Well-informed people disapproved of these excesses and did their utmost to appease passions by recalling all the aspects of the problem. From the beginning of the war, Paul VI intervened to demand the cessation of the fighting and to suggest that Jerusalem be declared an open city. Catholic and Protestant authorities of Western countries also launched appeals in favour of peace and reconciliation, as their role and duty demanded. These positive gestures were, unfortunately, spoiled by the sudden resurgence of traditional claims to the Holy Places.

The initiative came from the Vatican. On June 9, as soon as the Israeli victory appeared certain, even before the cease-fire, the Pope called for the internationalisation of Jerusalem and the application of the ancient project of corpus separation. He was upheld at once by diplomats of the Secretariate of State, by many prelates, especially in Rome and in the East, and by eminent personalities such as Father Congar and Father Danielou. Their declarations aroused deep emotion in Israel and in the whole Jewish world. Everyone knew, in fact, that the Christian leaders had adjusted very well during the twenty years of Jordanian occupation of the Old City, and that they had never protested against the prohibition for Jews to visit the Western Wall, nor against the looting of Israeli synagogues and cemeteries. Their hastiness in again calling for international status, when the Israeli government was affirming its good will to respect scrupulously all the Christian and Moslem Holy Places, as it had always done, was interpreted by the Jews as a new proof of lack of understanding and of hostility towards them.

There is some exaggeration, but also much truth in this interpretation. Such men as Paul VI and Father Congar are not anti-Semites; they do not approve the extreme attacks of the unconditional defenders of the Arab camp against the State of Israel. Their principal conscious motives were a sincere desire to find a peaceful solution to the problem of Jerusalem and the persistent conviction that the United Nations, despite all their failures, have an important role to play in the process of reconciliation. Undoubtedly, they too, have been influenced by the wave of hope and the ephemeral illusions which flooded the Western countries between the end of the war and the failure of the peace. But they do not take into account the lasting attachment of Israel, and the whole Jewish world, to the Holy City, nor of the fact that three-quarters of the inhabitants of Jerusalem are Jews who legitimately claim their right to self-determinatin. This forgetfulness of the elementary facts of Jewish consciousness and of the right of peoples to self-determination, points to the persistent ignorance and prejudices of a large section of Christian authorities. Ecclesiastical circles do not necessarily share in the hostility of the majority of Eastern countries towards Israel. But there is still much to be done to bring about the recognition of Judaism and the Jews of today.

D. The Recent Evolution

The aggravation of the Judaeo-Arab conflict since the Six Days' War has accentuated the divisions among Christians and precipitated their development. The Churches seemed to have adopted more positive attitude on the question of Jerusalem, but there were fresh misunderstandings on a political level.

The Israeli government endeavoured to calm fears on the subject of the Holy Places. As early as June 27, 1967, a law was passed to assure entire religious liberty and to guarantee the status quo. For the first time since 1947 all creeds were authorised in the Holy City. On being approached the Vatican agreed to send an emissary to Israel and to begin discreet conversations to settle the questions in abeyance.

This conciliation was facilitated by a decisive awareness of the situation in several sectors of Christian opinion. In Jerusalem, the little Hebrew-speaking community, asked the Churches for greater understanding with regard to Judaism and the State of Israel. From July 1967 a group of Catholic religious from the house of Saint Isaiah made known their opposition to the project of corpus separatum and declared themselves in favour of a policy of trusting understanding towards the Israelis. The Armenians and the main Protestant Churches reacted more or less in the same way. In August, 1967, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Elisha II Derderian, rallied to the intermediary solution of limited extraterritoriality for the places of worship.

Abroad also many voices were raised to the same effect. Protestant authorities and several French arid Netherland Catholic bishops, among them Cardinal Marty and Mgr. Elchinger, protested courageously against the very principle of a « Christian policy », and recalled that the essential thing was the pursuit of peace and dialogue between all the parties concerned. A former prominent Franciscan in the Holy Land, Mgr. Collin, bishop of Digne, also had conciliatory proposals to make, and, in his turn, took up the theme of limited extraterritoriality. The laity tended to be disinterested in the question of the Holy Places which to them appeared secondary in relation to the general problems of the Near East.

The Vatican was aware of these reactions. Twice the Pope seemed to have them in mind: in his allocution to the cardinals of December 23, 1968, and in his message to the Islamic conference of Rabat on September 21, 1969 when he made no further allusion to the corpus separatum, and asked only for an international « regulation » for the Holy Places and Jerusalem. It is difficult to know whether it was just a matter of simple verbal discretion, or a return to the traditional policy prior to 1947, or perhaps, on the contrary, genuinely raising the question again. But it is probable that it was, at least, the beginning of a new development, linked to the pressure from public opinion and to the slow renewal of the personnel of the Curia, where Paul VI was gradually introducing men reputedly more open than their predecessors.

This development came up against strong resistance. The Latin Patriarch, the Eastern Patriarchates in Arab countries, and a large section of the Roman circles were still in favour of the internationalisation of the Holy City. The Osservatore Romano spoke about it again periodically and protested against the « judaisation » of Jerusalem. This does not mean that the Pope and the Christian world had not evolved, because the Vatican newspaper, contrary to widespread opinion, has no official character and involves only the editors. But it is clear that there was conflict between two opposing currents of thought, not only in Rome, but in all the Churches. This conflict went far beyond the question of the Holy Places, which, today seems to have been relegated to a secondary plan, and, in fact, bears on the attitude to be adopted in the Judaeo-Arab conflict. This is quite normal, because the real problem lies there.

The situation has considerably developed since 1967. The principle new factor is undoubtedly the appearance, and rapid development of the national Palestinian movement. A section of the refugees and young people born in the camps and brought up to hate Zionism, rejected the Arab leaders whose policy had failed, took up aims to destroy the State of Israel and to win hack the whole of Palestine. Whatever reservations their programme and their methods call for, their distress and their will to affirm their right to existence and self-determination deserve attention and respect. Their exaggerated propositions, their divisions and their recourse to irresponsible terrorism run a grave risk of sparking off an unending war, and new massacres of Jews and Palestinians (less perhaps in Israel itself where many Arabs only want to live in peace and where the government seems to have the situation under control, than in Arab countries, where the regimes in force do not hesitate to get rid of unwelcome people at the price of fratricidal repression). These men nevertheless have the right to realise their legitimate aspirations, on condition that they do not lead to oppression of the Israelis. Their intransigence and the Israeli determination to evacuate no territory as long as the Arabs refuse to negotiate, renders the conflict insoluble for the moment. But the rest of the world is slowly discovering that it must take into account the claims of both sides, and that one day a compromise must be reached.

The Churches are following events with increasing anxiety. The emergence of the Palestinianfactor is shattering former ideas, and obliging Christians to examine their stand. Although some are no better informed than in the past, others are evolving instinctively. Feeble and menaced until 1967, the Israelis were accorded that sympathy which tends to fall on those who seem to be victims and their claims are received favourably by many, often without much discernment. The estrangement from Israel deepened.

This evolution is very advanced in Eastern communities where it had started a long time before. It was increased by the exodus of Christian Arabs, many of whom had fled during the Six Days' War, and many, for economic and psychological reasons, are continuing to do so: the poor found better paid work in the Israeli enterprises than in the neighbouring countries, but technicians met with greater difficulties. Badly received in the chief Arab towns where they were unwelcome, they either went further afield, or vegetated in the camps. Humiliation and resentment incited some to join the Palestinian organisations: the leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Popular Front, G. Habash and N. Hawatmeh, are of Christian origin. Without going as far as this, the Eastern clergy shared the bitterness of their people and hardened their attitude towards Israel. There are still men of peace and dialogue among them, who dream of a less sombre future, but they hardly dare express their opinions.

The reactions of other Churches are much more diverse. The majority of the faithful remain favourable to Israel and desire rapprochement of points of view in order to prepare a peace which will grant guarantees of existence satisfactory to both sides. But a section of advanced Christian opinion has suddenly begun to espouse the Palestinian cause with absolute passion. As early as 1967 some French newspapers (Têmoignage Chrêtien, Christianisme Social, La Lettre) began a spirited campaign against Israel. Not all their readers approve of this campaign, but some support is given to it by the younger members of the clergy and from abroad.

This partial about-face is linked to the general crisis in western civilisation, to the powerlessness of reform movements and the uneasiness of the Churches in a completely changing world. It is more acute in France because confusion is particularly great there. Despairing of ever finding an issue, a number of sincere but confused Christians have denounced capitalist society en bloc, rejected traditional forms of thinking and action, placed all their hopes on the oppressed people of the Third World and the most radical liberation movements. Propaganda of Palestinian organisations which denounce « racist and theocratic » Zionism, and which call for the creation of a « lay and progressive » Arab state (where Jews would be able to live but only as individuals), pleases them by its modern aspect and even by its extremism. The fact that this programme presupposes the destruction of the State of Israel does not inhibit them. The fact that the Arab states do not accept laicisation, and that the promise to tolerate the Jews after the Grand Soir (the general upheaval to come), seems destined above all for western opinion — it has never been translated into Arabic — does not worry them. They attribute all errors to Israel and place blind confidence in the Palestinians.
The unilateral campaign of the anti-Zionists quickly moved from a political to a religious level. After having accused the Israelis of the worst infringements, the promoters accused Jews and Christians of championing an unjust policy by an erroneous interpretation of the Bible — too much in Israel's favour. This grievance is not without irony in view of the persistence of anti-Jewish feelings, even if some people have occasionally fallen into this error. The friends of Temoignage Chretien made a still worse mistake. Adopting the arguments of the Beyrouth theologians, they claim, on singularly intolerant theological grounds, that Jews Save no right to national existence. Their insistence on this point earned them a public reproach from the. French episcopal com- mittee for relations with Judaism, which, in February, 1970, denounced « the ambiguity of certain campaigns of opinion which confuse religious arguments with purely political positions ». Shortly afterwards, the Bishop of Strasbourg, Mgr. Elchinger, declared that « Christians should not stir up strife, but should work for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs ». But no attention was paid to these warnings and the episcopate was even reproached for meddling in what did not concern it.

Desirous of ostentatiously emphasizing their support for the Palestinian cause, some anti-Zionist groups organised in May, 1970 a meeting in Beyrouth which they entitled « World Conference of Christians for Palestine ». Other trends of opinion not being represented, the debates took such an exaggerated turn that the Eastern churches did not hide their embarrassment. The organizers went so far as to declare that Zionism constituted a « turning away from eschatology » and « a danger for the purity of the faith ». At the same time they proclaimed, with imperturbable assurance, that they are not anti-Semites, and that those who do not share their opinions are the real enemies of the Jews.

This current of thought is that of a small minority, but its mischief-making activity is causing deep concern. Most anti-Zionists are not anti-Semites in the usual sense of the word, but it is obvious that their strong feelings are leading them astray. Their manichean diatribes are contributing to spreading a distorted image of Israel and of Judaism, and to re-awakening the old myths which contribute to theological anti-Judaism. The anxiety of the Jewish world is understandable, knowing as it does how easily anti-Judaism leads to anti-Semitism. Many Christians share this anxiety and speak their mind, notably in France and in Israel. Several small groups of theologians and lay people, Catholics and Protestants, protested against the partisan character of the Beyrouth conference, and supported more balanced attitudes. In particular they stated that Christians must not substitute themselves for Jews or Arabs, nor must they dictate from above what these latter should believe, what they should be, or what they should do, nor, above all, preach violence. They asked public opinion to try to understand all the parties involved, and to take into account their legitimate rights and aspirations.

The debate is not finished, and it is impossible to foresee where it will lead. Overwhelmed by this great avalanche of disconcerting events and contradictory declarations, Christians are more confused than ever. The majority still hope for peace, but hardly dare believe in it any more. The leaders themselves are very divided and hesitate to intervene. Many expected reactions after the Beyrouth Conference, but the Vatican and the World Council of Churches preferred to remain silent. The leaders do not conceal in private that they disapprove the extremist language of the anti-Zionists. But they are very senstive to the sufferings of the Palestinians and to the difficulties of the Eastern Churches, with whom Rome and Geneva are increasingly in sympathy. Friends of the Jews are fewer, and less listened to in high places. Almost all over the world, efforts towards openness to Judaism meet with fresh reserve, political in origin. Uneasiness and confusion are extreme.

This situation is serious. Fear of _partisan reactions must not stop the Church from shouldering her responsibilities nor of playing her role for the establishment of justice and peace.


We do not presume in this article to propose a solution, nor even to say what the Churches ought to do in such a difficult context. But we can try to draw some lessons from past errors and suggest some directives to contribute to the necessary reform of Christian attitudes.

A. React Against Legalities and Triumphalism

For too long the great mistake of the Roman Church has been to lay claim to the Holy Places with an acrimony and contempt of others whichhas constituted a real scandal. However, for several years now, the Catholic world has at last begun to react against intolerance, but the old mentality has not completely disappeared. The Vatican and the Latin Church are questioning themselves on the attitude to adopt, but, so far they have not had the courage to renounce the old policy of defending traditional « rights » and privileges, nor their claims to Jerusalem.

Once and for all, these legalities and all vestiges of past triumphalism must come to an end. The role of the Church is not to defend rights but to live the Word of God and to witness to it. It is quite normal that she should desire basic freedom. But she must remain poor. She must not aim at power. She must not cause scandal to the whole world.

In this perspective it seems to us absolutely inadmissable to demand the internationalisation of the Holy City and its surroundings. Jerusalem is a city which is three-quarters Jewish. The Holy Land belongs to Jews and Arabs. Christians, as such, have no special rights there. Their persistent recriminations are all the less founded that all religions now enjoy complete liberty of worship as guaranteed by the Israel Law of June 27, 1967.

It would be much more realistic, and much more according to the Gospel, to accept the solution of limited extraterritoriality just for the Holy Places, or, better still, to be satisfied with the present guarantees, which, moreover, can be adapted or reinforced through conversations between all those involved. Rome's example is very enlightening in this respect. The Roman question poisoned the life of the Church as long as the Popes, under the pretext of defending the «rights» of the Holy See, refused to resign themselves to the loss of their temporal states. By agreeing to possess only the Vatican, Pius XI rendered an immense service to Italian Catholicism. Some clear-sighted people are even asking if the Papacy would not be well inspired to renounce its symbolic sovereignty, and all political privilege in order to fulfill its pastoral function better. This proposal may appear somewhat idealistic, but it has the advantage of reminding Christians that their true mission is a spiritual one.

B. First of All, Seek Peace and Justice for All Men

Once the renunciation of all temporal claims has been accepted it does not mean that the Church must become disinterested in the fate of the Holy Land and its inhabitants. One with all men, and depository of the gospel message, the Church, no matter what her past errors, has a role to play in the Near East drama. It is not a matter of proposing political solutions. This is not her vocation. But she must remind all parties that the only possible attitude in desperate situations is to seek peace and justice for all, without exclusivism. The Gospel does not provide ready-made solutions, but obliges Christians to strive for them, humbly and untiringly, not in words only, but in acts. They can belong to different political parties, but whatever their affiliations or their sympathies, they must guard against any unilateral position, and from any belligerence. There is no peace possible for a Christian without real efforts for justice, nor any justice possible without real efforts for peace.

Several solutions could be contemplated to find a way out of the impasse: a return to the pre-1967 frontiers, with some more or less significant adjustments; or else the creation of a Palestinian state in Cis-Jordan or on the two banks of the Jordan; or again, a Judaeo-Arab federation and the protection of minorities. Any of these would require a prodigious effort of understanding and rapprochement, in which the Churches should have it at heart to participate to the utmost.

C. Progress in the Recognition of Others

Kind feelings are not enough. Eyes must be opened, old prejudices must be definitively overcome so as to discover, understand and respect the reactions of both Jews and Arabs. Much progress has been made during recent years, thanks to the efforts of a small group of pioneers, but there is still a long way to go. Judaism and the Jewish world are, generally speaking, still little known and little understood. Ecclesiastical milieux often show greater openness to Islam and the Arab world, but the majority of Western Christians still hold back. Therefore we must struggle against the persistent anti-Judaism of a section of the clergy, and against anti-Arab racism latent in the western masses. This does not mean that the policy of the leaders of either side must be approved. But the Christian world must learn to know and to recognize fully both Jews and Arabs, their values and their differences, their rights and their aspirations.

The Eastern Churches must also be understood and recognized. Ecumenical rapprochement, begun after Vatican II, is still too circumscribed in diplomatic circles. All the faithful must be attentive to the Christians in Israel and to Arab Christians in order to understand their problems better and to respect their reactions. The Latins, who have too often remained foreigners to the country, must not continue to raise barriers. Aggiornamento is necessary. It could even be asked whether the Patriarchate should not progressively efface itself in favour of the Hebrew-speaking community and the Eastern Patriarchs. It could also be asked whether the Franciscans would not be well inspired to give up the guardianship of the sanctuaries and the monopoly of tourist money, so as to be free to devote themselves entirely to the poor and the local Churches.

This conversion would entail some risks on account of the anti-Jewish feelings of many Arab Christians. However, we must trust them, because the responsibility is theirs. Other Christians must help through dialoguing with them and by carefully avoiding all summary criticism, and exaggerated concessions. Israeli Christians, who for a long time have been in favour of changes in the Church and Judaeo-Arab rapprochement, and to whom too little attention has been paid in the past, can play a positive role in the proceedings, provided that they are accepted as full-time partners.

All this presupposes an immense amount of formation and long term thinking in the Near East and elsewhere. Those engaged in this task and ecclesiastical leaders have a very heavy responsibility to assume in this respect. They must, consequently, be on their guard against ill-timed declarations and everywhere allow men to speak who are capable of seeing all the facets of the problem, and of taking into account all the points of view. This effort to be truly open to all is, undoubtedly, the principal duty of the Church today.

D. Humbly Stimulate Dialogue

Embarrassed by the weight of past failings, Christians are in no position to teach others.

They must first of all sweep their own house clean, renounce all claim to privileges for themselves, give the example of respect for others and of peacemaking dialogue.

The day these conditions are fulfilled, it should be possible to find a credible language, to contribute to Judaeo-Arab rapprochement, by inducing respect for all peoples and all creeds, without presuming to impose any solutions.

These views may seem utopic, in the actual context. The conflict which is causing much blood to flow in the Holy Land could go on worsening for a long time still, and Christians can fail once again in their mission. But it is clear that ways to peace must be sought so that all the children of Abraham may one day meet in Jerusalem and finally contribute to that universal reconciliation which constitutes their common hope.


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