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Bishops see the vital contribution made by Christians in the Holy Land

4 months, 4 weeks ago

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, has returned from the Holy Land where he participated in the 2019 Holy Land Coordination, chaired by the Bishop of Clifton, The Rt Revd Declan Lang. This year’s pastoral visit had a particular focus on Christians living in the State of Israel. The 14 Roman Catholic Bishops from three continents, along with Bishop Christopher from the Church of England, visited a number of projects in Israel and Palestine and saw the vital contribution made by Christians “especially through schools, hospitals, involvement in public life and attempting to build bridges between different faiths”.

Commenting after the visit, Bishop Christopher said: ‘For the fifth consecutive year I have had the privilege of taking part in the Holy Land Coordination and, once again, it has provided a valuable opportunity to engage with Christians in the Holy Land. It is particularly fitting that, as we return, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins, and I pray that the wider church will continue to stand in solidarity and continue to work for a just peace. It is as important that we are mindful of the challenges faced by Christians in the Holy Land and worldwide, and that we continue to seek opportunities to bear witness to the hope that lies at the heart of our faith.’

Image © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk (https://flic.kr/s/aHskM5q4Wr)


Following the conclusion of the 2019 Holy Land Coordination, the group issued a communique – the full text can be read below.

The Holy Land Coordination stands in solidarity with all Christians in Israel and Palestine. Our ongoing advocacy for a just peace is informed by an annual pilgrimage to meet with our sisters and brothers, listen to them, and witness the challenges they face. This year our focus has been those Christians who live in the state of Israel.

Standing in solidarity with Israel’s Christians
Throughout our visit we have experienced how there are Israeli citizens from many different backgrounds who coexist and work together for the Common Good of their society. We recognise that Israel was founded on the stated principles of equality between all its citizens. This urgently needs to become the lived reality.

Israel’s Christians wish to live as full citizens, with their rights recognised in a plural and democratic society. We have seen the vital contribution that they make especially through schools, hospitals, involvement in public life and attempting to build bridges between different faiths.

Yet it is clear that at the same time they face profound difficulties across all aspects of their lives. We have heard that, along with other Palestinian Arab citizens and migrants living in Israel, many Christians find themselves systematically discriminated against and marginalised.

Those we met expressed particular concern about the Nation State Law that was passed since our last visit to the Holy Land. Local Christian leaders have warned that this creates a “constitutional and legal basis for discrimination” against minorities, undermining the ideals of equality, justice and democracy.[1] We stand with Israel’s Christians and all those challenging discrimination, in support of their call to protect the country’s pluralism.

As we approach this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we reaffirm our solidarity with all of the Churches here, and pray that Christians may work more closely together in the pursuit of justice and peace.

Human dignity under occupation
Our delegation also travelled to Palestine, where despite the faith and resilience of those we met, the misery of occupation has been deepened by severe cuts to humanitarian funding by the US government.

Healthcare, education and other basic services for refugees are being increasingly threatened, exacerbating the ongoing violations of their fundamental human dignity. This cannot be ignored or tolerated.

We call upon our own governments to help meet the funding gaps now faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and redouble their efforts towards a diplomatic solution, with two democratic sovereign states of Israel and Palestine existing in peace.

Hope for the future
We are a people who believe in the truth of the Resurrection and so we have hope for the future. As we return to our home countries we echo the words of Pope Francis:

“Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts!”[2]

We admire our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land for not losing hope and we commit ourselves through prayer, pilgrimage and practical solidarity, to helping keep that hope alive.

Bishop Declan Lang – England and Wales (Chair of the Holy Land Coordination)
Bishop Stephen Ackermann - Germany
Archbishop Stephen Brislin
– South Africa

Archbishop Timothy Broglio – United States of America
Bishop Peter Bürcher – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden
Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni – Italy
Bishop Christopher Chessun – the Church of England
Bishop Michel Dubost – France
Bishop Lionel Gendron – Canada
Bishop Felix Gmur – Switzerland
Bishop William Kenney – England and Wales
Bishop Alan McGuckian – Ireland
Bishop William Nolan – Scotland
Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho – Portugal
Bishop Noel Treanor - Ireland

[1]Statement of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land on the Nation State Law, 31 October 2018

(www.lpj.org/assembly-of-catholic-ordinaries-calls-on-israel-to-rescind-its-nation-state-law/)

[2] Pope Francis, Holy Mass in the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception of Aparecida, 24 July 2013 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130724_gmg-omelia-aparecida.pdf)