I haven't written for a while, since I first responded to the dramatic developments in a few of the countries in the Middle East. We still don't know how the revolutions in these countries will end up, and the situation is very volatile. As has been the case for the last two months or so, there are both positive and worrying signs. We will have to watch carefully.
But so much else has happened that I felt I needed to be in contact with you. First, we have witnessed major earthquakes in both New Zealand and Japan, a tsunami in the Pacific, and now, some nuclear accidents in Japan. The ICCJ has member groups in New Zealand, although not specifically in Christchurch, but I visited there, and it used to be a lovely city. We have no groups in Japan, but our hearts go out to the suffering people of that area. It is still too early to assess the over-all loss of life or the potential damage caused by the meltdown of the nuclear reactor. Still, one wonders how much of the disasters we have seen recently are caused by human actions against our fragile environment, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent or at least cope with these catastrophes.
The second thing I felt a need to respond to is the tragic news coming out of Israel. After a fairly long period of relative calm, there was a terrorist incident on a settlement in Samaria. Friday night, two terrorists entered the settlement and murdered five people who were sleeping in their homeparents and three of their children, including a three-month-old baby. Those of you who know me know that I have consistently opposed Israeli settlements on the West Bank. But that, I believe, is not the issue here; it is simply incomprehensible to me how a human being can slit the throat of an infant in her crib.
I pray that this incident will not bring about a further escalation of violence in our region. We must totally condemn violence and extremism and go back to peaceful negotiations.
In order to end on a happier note, I can mention that recently I spent a few days in Paris. During that time, I had the opportunity to meet with some leaders of our French member organization. They are doing excellent work. The occasion for my trip was a conference to mark 40 years of dialogue between the Vatican and the Jewish people. I met for the first time Kurt Cardinal Koch, the new Vatican head of ecumenical relations, responsible among other things for relations with the Jews. The Swiss cleric replaced Walter Cardinal Kasper, with whom many of us had the privilege of working for years. Cardinal Koch made a wonderful impression on me and I look forward to seeing him in the future at our events.
I conclude with best wishes for the spring and hope that the news will improve