The Holy Land Co-ordination (HLC) concluded its annual visit to the different Christian communities in the country on Tuesday January 19, 2017. The bishops’ meetings, which started on January 14, had witnessed the hopes and daily concerns of Christians of this land.
On Sunday, January 15, the HLC delegation, which comprises bishops coming from across Europe, North America and South Africa, celebrated Mass presided by H.E. Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton, in the Church of the Annunciation in Beit Jala. In a podcast by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Lang spoke about the “vibrancy of the Christian community” in the city where a part of the Church “had to be enlarged to accommodate the expanding number” of the faithful.
Speaking about the adversities of Palestinian Christians in their daily lives, the Bishop remarked that “It’s not an easy life for the Christians living in Palestine but I think it’s more difficult in Gaza than it is in the West Bank, where even there you have grave restrictions upon movement”. He added “the Christian community has a vital part to play in trying to reconcile the different nationalities, cultures and religions in this part of the world. It’s got a great challenge to face and sometimes it can’t face it because it doesn’t literally have the resources… so you can understand in a way why people leave”.
During the delegation’s visit to Bethlehem University, the Bishop commended the high quality of education offered by the University, as well as the outstanding achievement of its students. “Impressive students have come through Bethlehem University including the mayor of Bethlehem, who lectured there as well” the Bishop said. “The church provides education and it empowers people to live a life of dignity as far as they can” he added.
Over the few days of the visit, the HLC had tackled the theme of the “50 years of occupation”, which included visits to Hebron, East Jerusalem, and other Palestinian areas. Referring to previous visits to Hebron, Bishop Declan pointed out that “Hebron is a very tense place. I have been there before and I felt more tensed in Hebron than I felt in Gaza”.
In an interview conducted by the Media Office of the Latin Patriarchate, Msgr Duarte da Cunha, General Secretary of CCEE, talked about the role which the HLC and the Church play in order to advance the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis. “The Church holds in its core the power of prayer. At the end we strongly believe that peace is a God-given gift. What we strive to achieve is to raise awareness on both international and Church levels. We also seek to give a voice to those who need help, to all who have suggestions towards achieving peace, reconciliation and coexistence”.
“We recognize that the life of Palestinians, their sufferings, the tension in the region and the absence of peace, are a call to our faith. The Church strives to stir the conscience of political leaders all over the world regarding the situation in the Holy Land, in order to be truthful in our efforts to achieve peace”
Following the inauguration of the Palestinian Embassy at the Vatican last Saturday, Fr. Da Cunha said that “the recognition of the State of Palestine and the opening of its Embassy was not in defiance of Israel, but a step through which the church hopes to show that reconciliation is possible”.
Furthermore, and on Wednesday January 18, concelebrated Mass with H.E. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.