Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D.C., has taken a keener interest in the plight of Holy Land Christians and, at a recent meeting on foreign trade at the White House, asked President George W. Bush for help, reports nationally syndicated columnist Robert Novak.
Cardinal McCarrick’s immediate concern is the West Bank village of Aboud, whose residents are about half Christian and half Muslim.
Novak underlines that while King Abdullah of Jordan met with members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier this month about this situation and the Vatican has stepped up its interest, there is no sign that the Bush administration is interested in engaging this problem.
“The problems of the Catholic and Orthodox Christians of Aboud do not resonate in American politics,” says Novak. “The evangelicals have signed a blank check to Israel in the interests of security in the Middle East.” He says Rep. Henry Hyde, among all of the Catholics in Congress, is the only one who has shown interest.
According to Novak, Aboud is being threatened by Israel’s security barrier, which, once completed, will confiscate 39 percent of the village's olive fields and take over the aquifer that supplies one-fifth of the West Bank's total water supply. In October, construction uprooted 500 grapevines in the village. Twelve kilometers of the barrier will be built on Aboud's land, and two other villages will also lose territory, he reports.
Israel justifies the construction of the wall as protection against terrorists, but some reject this argument. The Holy Land Christian Society says the security barrier is really about the annexation of land for the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Israeli control over the water supply, reports Novak.
Cardinal McCarrick told Novak that he fears the Christian presence is being lost in the Holy Land. He plans to visit the West Bank next month and may meet with Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for Public Diplomacy.