Holy Land Coordination to focus annual visit on peace and Gaza Christians

Bishops from Europe and North America will visit East Jerusalem, Ramallah and the Gaza Strip on 11-16 January. Their schedule includes official meetings as well as visits with seniors, the sick and the disabled, focused on prayer, pilgrimage, persuasion and presence.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land, better known as the Holy Land Coordination (HLC), is set to conduct its annual visit in the area on 11-16 January.

The HLC, which involves prelates from Europe and North America, will meet Christians in Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Despite its small size, the latter’s community is stronger than the walls and bans that have prevented its members from celebrating this Christmas in Bethlehem.

During their stay, the bishops will discuss, in addition to pastoral care, peace-building and dialogue, two topics that have always taken centre stage at the meetings of prelates.

The latter will also visit the sick, a home where the Sisters of Mother Teresa care for seniors and disabled residents, as well as meet young people in Ramallah and East Jerusalem.

The official schedule includes a Mass and a round table at the Latin Patriarchate with the Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa and the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli.

In their announcement, the prelates expressed their solidarity and closeness to the faithful In the Gaza Strip, who received very few permits from Israel to visit Bethlehem and other holy places for last month’s Christmas celebrations.

This year’s visit[*] is dedicated to the promotion of peace and dialogue in an area where the Church “experiences extreme political and social-economic pressure”.

Following tradition, the visit will focus on four aspects: prayer, pilgrimage, persuasion and presence.

The presence of European and North American bishops puts the spotlight on the problems of Christians in the region, who live on the margins amid great difficulties.

Such a visit helps Christians around the world to know better the places where Christ was born and lived, encouraging them to come and see how the communities of the Holy Land survive.

Over the years, the HLC has highlighted and spoken out on other issues as well, such as family reunification, land seizures, illegal evictions and house demolitions, not to illegal occupation, separation walls and oppression.

The bishops have repeatedly appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to end the violence and conflict and search lasting peace.

In one statement on security, they said that “to be pro-Israeli has to mean being pro-Palestinian. This means being pro-justice for all, whose certain fruit is lasting peace”.

[*] The first visit was in 1998.