Hope at Bethlehem University

 "Despite all the violence, suffering and seemingly insurmountable problems in Gaza at the present time there is a wonderful spirit of hope among students at Bethlehem University", said Bishop William Kenney CP, Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, speaking from Bethlehem on yesterday, writes Peter Jennings.

"The ordinary people are tremendously grateful that this delegation of 10 Catholic bishops Europe and North America has come to the Holy Land at this time.

"There is a great sense of sadness as well as anger among most of the Palestinians we have met at what is happening in Gaza, said Bishop Kenney, a member of the Passionist Congregation.

"On Saturday (10 January) we took part in a Mass celebrated in Bethlehem by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. We had no problem at the crossing from Israel into Bethlehem, where there was no violence."

"Today, I celebrated Mass at a little village outside Ramalla. I did not mention the situation in Gaza directly. I assured the congregation that we, and many Catholics throughout the world, were praying for them each day.

"I preached about today's Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. My sermon was translated into Arabic for the Palestinians present."

Bishop Kenney, who is Area Bishop for Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Coventry, added: "The Holy Land Co-ordination was set up in Jerusalem in October 1998 at the request of the Holy See.

"One of the key focuses is to encourage Christians to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land."

The 2009 group, including Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool and Bishop William Kenney, arrived in the Holy Land on Friday, 9 January and is due to return on Thursday 15 January.

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