International group of bishops prepare for annual visit to Holy Land


Bishops from across Europe, North America and South Africa will meet in the Holy Land from 13-18 January to promote dialogue and peace. This year's Holy Land Co-ordination 2018 (HLC18) will focus on meeting young people from both Israel and Palestine.

This annual visit was set up 20 years ago at the invitation of the Holy See with the aim of visiting and supporting the Holy Land's local Christian communities as they experience the political and socio-economic realities of living in Israel and Palestine.

This year the focus will be on education and young people, with a series of meetings and visits set up to understand the importance education of young people has to build peace in the region. In addition to meeting students and young people from Gaza, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the bishops will also meet the Parents Circle - Families Forum, a body which brings together more than 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost a relation due to the prolonged conflict and who today, through various initiatives, support peace, reconciliation and tolerance.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem will also present to the Bishops their aim to promote education as an instrument of peace and justice, followed by a series of visits to Christian schools administered directly by the Latin Patriarchate. In Emmaus-Qubeibeh, the bishops will visit a home for the elderly and will meet some young volunteers working there. Br Peter Bray, Vice-Rector of the University of Bethlehem, will present the Qubeibeh Nursing Programme (QNP): a programme which offers job opportunities for young people in a largely rural area, with high levels of unemployment and many social and political problems.

The HLC18 will celebrate Sunday Mass on 14 January with the small Christian community in Gaza, followed by a visit to the House of Peace run by the Missionaries of Charity; a brief meeting with young Christians and a pastoral visit to the sick in the community.

The meeting is organised by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

The Co-ordination's raison d'être can be expressed through the '3 Ps' - Prayer, Pilgrimage, Persuasion.

Prayer is the framework within which the annual meeting takes place, with the daily celebration of the Eucharist, often in different Rites and with the local Catholic communities.

Pilgrimage: The bishops go individually or in groups to visit the Catholic communities, meeting their members and at times local political figures, too. In difficult times, the visiting bishops have often listened to requests for a greater presence of pilgrims, and there has been a concerted and successful effort on the part of the Bishops' Conferences to encourage pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

Persuasion: refers to the work undertaken after the annual meeting, when the bishops return home and speak to their own Governments, Members of Parliament, Israeli and Palestinian Ambassadors and to the media about a vast range of questions concerning the lives of Christians. In line with the approach adopted by the Holy See elsewhere, the bishops do not seek privileges for Christians, but dignity and justice for them and for others who live in similar conflict situations.

Perhaps there should be a fourth P: Presence. The bishops come every year, and by their presence they hope to remind the Christian communities in the Holy Land that they are not forgotten by their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

The following bishops will take part in the Holy Land Co-ordination:

Bishop Declan Lang (Clifton, England and Wales - Co-ordinator)

Bishop Lionel Gendron (Saint-Jean Longueuil, Canada)

Bishop Udo Bentz (Mainz, Germany)

Archbishop Riccardo Fontana (Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, Italy)

Bishop Donal McKeown (Derry, Ireland)

Bishop Pierre Bürcher (Iceland)

Bishop Mgr José Ornela Carvalho (Setubal, Portugal)

Bishop William Kenney (Birmingham, England and Wales)

Bishop Nicholas Hudson (Westminster, England and Wales)

Bishop Christopher Chessun (Church of England, United Kingdom)

Bishop William Nolan (Galloway, Scotland)

Archbishop Joan-Enric Vives Sicilia (Urgell, Spain)

Archbishop Mgr Stephen Brislin (Cape Town, South Africa)

Bishop Mgr Dr Felix Gmür (Basel, Switzerland)

Bishop Oscar Cantu (La Cruces, USA)



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