Vatican encourages pilgrims to visit Holy Land

 On November 15, the Vatican's representative in Israel, Mgr Pietro Sambi, Custos of the Holy Land, Fr Pierre Battista Pizzaballa and other senior Church figures signed an historic proclamation in Jerusalem, encouraging Christians around the world to visit the Holy Land. Tourism and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra participated in the event. The declaration calls on Christians around the world to visit the Holy Land and encourages pilgrimage. The declaration states that pilgrimage to the Holy Land is safe and builds bridges of peace among the nations. The declaration (published below) is being sent to Christian leaders around Israel and the world. A call to all people of faith: Visit the Holy Land now! Proclamation We the undersigned proclaim our call to all people of faith; Visit the Holy Land now! We pledge to commit ourselves to promote pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where all people of faith will discover the footprint of God in history and in one's life. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land is as safe as to other parts of the world. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land constitutes bridges of peace amongst nations. Pilgrimage to the Holy Land strengthens the diminished Christian community there. In related news the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli and PA Tourism Ministers met in holiday spirit for the first time in more than four years, to issue a joint declaration calling upon millions of Christians to visit the Holy Land during Christmas. "Tourism can create a better understanding between people and can open the way for peace in the Middle East," said PA Minister of Tourism Mitri Abu Aitah at a Jerusalem press conference with Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra. While not saying that the intifada is over, Abu Aitah said the interim Palestinian leaders had "opened their hearts for peace and talks." "We are here to open a new era in relations between the two sides," Ezra said, "and nothing is better than tourism to do good for both sides." Both men said they would work to ensure easy access for Christian pilgrims travelling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem by simplifying security checks, cooperation that has been virtually unthinkable during the past four years. "We are telling everyone that they can come more freely to the Holy Land," Abu Aitah said. "I think this meeting between us will lead to a lot of people to come visit the Holy Land," Ezra said. Source: Israeli Embassy Media Office

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