Last week catholic news outlets like the Church Times and Catholic News USA published two articles reporting the increased popularity of the petition, which had by then reached 1,600 signatories.
“Most of the signatories declared themselves to be Roman Catholics, but others are Muslims, Buddhists, humanists, and atheists,” reported the Church Times.
The petition was put together by members of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, the University of San Francisco, and several other peace groups in the United States.
The Roman Catholic charity Caritas Jerusalem began publicizing the petition early last week, and said Christians in the Holy Land felt strongly that if Pope Benedict planned to exclude Gaza from his visit, then he should abandon the trip altogether. As yet, the Vatican has given no indication that the Pope will visit Gaza.
The petition, posted 11 March, reads:
To: Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican
To Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of his visit to the Holy Land in May, 2009:
The Incarnation of divine love and our redeemer, Jesus Christ, enacted human reconciliation in part by visiting, eating with, and listening to the least among us: women and children, lepers and tax collectors, many persons deemed inferior and unclean by his society. Through his words and deeds, Jesus taught us to love our enemies as ourselves and to be blessed peacemakers, persecuted for his sake and the sake of the Kingdom. In his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, Christ challenged sinful social situations that relied on exclusion, dominance, and violence.
In many ways, the people of Gaza have been suffering under similar unjust social systems. In many ways, the Israelis, too, live in fear, distrust, and uncertainty. And thus the deeper justice of mutual healing is needed for both peoples. However, the people of Gaza in large part represent "the least among us” today. Their territory has been cut off and isolated. Their access to basic health care, education, jobs, adequate nutrition, and clean water, etc. has been severely hampered. Thus, their capacity to participate effectively in their political process and their potential for full human flourishing suffers enormously. When we ask, "Whose equal dignity is most unequally ignored?" or "Whose equal rights are most unequally threatened?" the faces of the people in Gaza clearly arise.
Mindful of the Gospel’s call and the Gazan’s need, we believe there is a unique opportunity for Christians as the body of Christ, especially for our leadership, to cooperate with God in the redemptive work of reconciliation. As in all times, the way of reconciliation exemplified by Jesus calls us to initiate social healing by visiting, eating with, listening to, and risking our safety in solidarity with the “least among us” -- in this case the people of Gaza. Moreover, like Christ, we need to be willing to risk our lives without the protection of arms, and thus, to live by the loving wisdom of the cross and the divine hope of the resurrection. Such witness by Church leadership will inspire the Catholic faithful, particularly the young, to embrace their Church and its rich tradition, particularly Christ’s wise, loving, and nonviolent way of promoting reconciliation. Such witness will also encourage other religious leaders to practice nonviolent peacemaking. We trust and hope that through such courageous love, embodied in nonviolent peacemaking, God’s Spirit and our participation will draw us all further into the Reign of God.
It can be viewed at http://www.petitiononline.com/popegaza/petition.html