A conference on Christians in the Holy Land, hosted for the first time, by Anglican and Catholic church leaders, Archbishop Rowan Williams and Archbishop Vincent Nichols, concluded yesterday. Throughout the two-day event at Lambeth Palace, participants heard from Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious and community leaders, describing the challenges of living in the Holy Land, and examining practical ways of building peace and providing a sustainable future for all.
The conference promoted the charity Friends of the Holy Land, which runs a centre for the elderly in Bethlehem, distributes food and medicines,and funds a project to develop new businesses offering employment, especially to young people.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: "We are also re-thinking how we approach pilgrimage". Speaking at the concluding press conference, Archbishop Nichols said there was a need to ensure that a pilgrimage was more than just a visit to Old Testament and New Testament sites "like a tour round the Coliseum". Archbishop Rowan Williams added "or a Christian Disneyland". It was important to engage fully in the life of the Church there, they said, to pray with Palestinian Christians and visit them in their communities, homes and schools.
Archbishop dismissed a question about which 'side' the Churches were supporting saying: "We are pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and pro-peace.'
Archbishop Rowan Williams said they were concerned about the difficulties Palestinians have in travelling to the Holy Places - especially during Christmas and Easter. He added that they were also worried that travel restrictions in the region, and emigration are breaking up Christian families.
To listen to speeches from the conference, and both Archbishops' concluding remarks, visit the following links:
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