.- In a statement released this week, Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned âin the strongest possible of termsâ Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmandinejadâs recent comments against Israel.
Last week, Ahmadinejad claimed to speak for his entire nation when he commented that Israel should be âwiped off the map.â
Pope Benedict strongly condemned the comments over the weekend, saying that âthe Holy See reaffirms the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security, each in their own sovereign State.â
Bishop Ricard, who is also head of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, added that, âSuch declarations by a head of state undermine the quest for peace and threaten the stability of an already tense region.â
He said: âPresident Ahmandinejadâs comments fail to recognize that the fates of the peoples of the Middle East are all linked. Leaders of the region should reject violent rhetoric and instead focus constructively on the significant challenges to justice and peace that exist in and between countries throughout the region.â
The Bishop echoed Pope Benedict, saying that, âWe support the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security. We also support the right of Palestinians to an independent and viable state.â
âIsraelis and Palestiniansâ, he stressed, âdeserve the support and encouragement of their neighbors as they struggle for a just peace.