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A Letter to His Holiness Pope Francis I


His Holiness Pope Francis I

C/o His Eminence Bishop Joseph Lazarotto, Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem

We members of the Palestinian people, Christians and Muslims, welcome your generous visit to the Holy Land. We wish you a blessed pilgrimage. We bless for you this auspicious step which we hope that the result of which will be the deliverance of our people from the Israeli occupation, which has been oppressing our people since 1967.

His Holiness Pope Francis I

We are living under the Israeli occupation in a big prison. We are deprived of our human rights which all religious laws of heaven have guaranteed. So we are prohibited from building on our land and from moving freely to our workplaces. Our children face many difficulties and obstacles which are created by the occupation in the face of the educational process or when they travel abroad to continue their specialized university education. Also our livelihood is targeted as well as the sources of our subsistence. The occupation authorities closed all social and civil society institutions in Jerusalem as well as several charitable institutions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Israeli authorities carry out nightly storming campaigns every day against peaceful civilian inhabitants in their homes, and they impose curfews and open fire on any moving thing. Hundreds of innocent victims died, and are still dying, as a result of this suppressive policy.

Since 1967, the Israeli occupation has been working on Judaizing the city and effacing its historical and Arab, Christian and Islamic landmarks. This is done through daily harassments of its Palestinian inhabitants, Christians and Muslims, confiscating our land and building tens of settlements on it, building roads and conducting excavations which expose holy places to the danger of collapse specially those places in the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram Al-Shareef) area and under Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The biggest danger faced by the holy city is emptying it from its Arab inhabitants as a result of daily harassments and preventing them from improving the conditions of their living. What gives us pain as Palestinians is the danger of emptying the city of its Christian inhabitants, whose emigration is increasing day by day due to the Israeli practices. So their number today in the Holy City does not exceed eight thousand Christian Palestinians, and this is one third of the number of the Jerusalemite Christians in 1945. Thus we address your holiness to work and demand of the international institutions and the international community to put an end to the Judaization of Jerusalem, to preserve its genuine character, to respect the rights of its Palestinian inhabitants and to grant them the freedom of living with dignity.

His Holiness Pope Francis I

Many inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes by the Israeli forces in 1948 and in 1967. There is a resolution in the General Assembly bearing the number 194, which stipulates their right of return or compensation. This resolution is waiting for a supporting position from your Holiness for this legitimate resolution, which Israel disregards and ignores.

The occupation authorities also seize and control our Palestinian water and take 80% of it. They sell it for us at a price which is four times the price they offer to the settlers who live on our occupied land, invest in it and prevent us from building and natural expansion. These settlements have become terrorist enclaves whose inhabitants cut down our trees, especially olive trees. They cut down hundreds of old trees every day to the extent that the number of uprooted olive trees alone has exceeded one million trees so far. This is in order to deprive their owners of obtaining a livelihood and to force them to depart. They also burn the fields of the farmers and deprive them of collecting their crops which are considered the main source of their livelihood. This is in addition to pursuing shepherds, stealing their cattle and preventing them from grazing their cattle in their occupied Palestinian land since 1967, and other suppressive and brutal practices in terrorist and bestial ways.

His Holiness Pope Francis I

The question of the basic freedom of access to religious places, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, is guaranteed by all free nations except in our holy country. So we the Christians are prevented from reaching our Mother Church in Jerusalem. The Muslims as well are not allowed to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the occupation authorities limit the age of those who enter to pray from 40 or 50 years old. This requires a firm stance on this issue.

Israel also detains thousands of Palestinian prisoners inside jails and cells which are not good for human use. It pronounces sentences against them which had not been known in the history of courts before. Hundreds of detainees are sentenced for tens of life imprisonment and for hundreds of years. This is in addition to holding hundreds of corpses and not giving them to their families. The number of the prisoners since 1967 is more than one million and fifty thousand. Three-hundred and sixty (360) children were detained in 2013 alone and they are still lurking in the darkness of the prisons where there are naked inspection, humiliation and severe torture which has caused the death of 204 prisoners until now.

Your Holiness the Pope

This Holy Land had witnessed the birth of Christ, Prince of Peace for the world. It also witnessed the Prophet Muhammad’s Israa’ (nocturnal journey from Mecca to Noble Jerusalem) and Mi’raaj (ascension to the seven heavens). The Palestinian people lived, and are still living, with the blessing of having established the most wonderful relations on earth since the Islamic Arabs came to this land, in the spirit of the Covenant of ‘Umar, which was signed in 638 A.D. by the Caliph of the Muslims ‘Umar Bin Al-Khattab and Saint Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem at that time.

We expect that through your blessed visit, you will work, as we already known about you, for siding with the principles of justice and human rights which are represented by:

·        Working to put an end to the Israeli occupation, which is the last occupation in the world for the sake of our deliverance from this terrible historical injustice and establishing the Palestinian state with Jerusalem being its eternal capital. We do hope that the Vatican representative in the United Nations or in any international circles will play a more effective role on this issue.

·        Guaranteeing freedom of worship and the arrival of Christians and Muslims to these holy places without restrictions.

·        Setting free the prisoners and political detainees, changing the conditions of their detention and transferring them from jails inside Israel to the occupied territories and applying the Geneva Conventions concerning war prisoners to them.

·        Working to guarantee the right of return for the refugees and to compensate them according to the international resolutions, especially Resolution 194.

·        Stopping the aggressions against Christian and Islamic places of worship and incessant attempts to Judaize them and stopping the digging up of cemeteries, confiscating them and turning them into public facilities or hotels.

The undersigned: the ‘ulama’ (Muslim religious leaders), clergymen, politicians, legal personalities, social and civil institutions and unions are sure that your Holiness will continue to stand by justice and human rights which your church believes in. We ask Almighty God that, besides praying for justice and peace, your Catholic church and the one church, together with all the faithful, will demand the heads of states and representatives of the peoples to put pressure on the heads of their governments and states to work seriously to end the Israeli occupation and achieve justice so that our Holy Land will enjoy peace and living with dignity. We hope that this will be a part of your message and your daily work programs. In our view, you remain a symbol for achieving security and peace, which are based on justice and fairness, especially for the wronged people like the Palestinians, who sincerely welcome your Holiness and who are honored by your presence. We hope that this visit will be a cause for rolling the unjust rock of the occupation from the Golgothas of this Holy Land so that right rises from among the tombs. 


May 12, 2014