Address by Archbishop Eamon Martin to Bishop William Hanna Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

15 Sep 2016

“We have become more and more conscious during our visit that Jerusalem is not only a holy city for Christians, Jews and Muslims, but it is also a wounded city. Conflict and injustice have taken a toll on this city and on its residents.”

Your Excellency Bishop Shomali,

It is a great joy for our pilgrims to come here to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Thank you for your kind invitation. Please convey our good wishes to Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa on his episcopal ordination last weekend in Bergamo by Cardinal Sandri in the presence of your Patriarch emeritus, His Beatitude Fouad Twal. We wish Archbishop Pizzaballa well in his challenging new ministry.

We are honoured today to be visiting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem which is the visible face of the Church in the Holy Land. We have already heard a lot this week about the ministry of the Patriarchate in ensuring that the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to shine forth in and from the Holy Land today.

To spend time in Jerusalem has been the goal of our pilgrimage. In the early hours of this morning we walked the streets of the old city along the Via Dolorosa, reflecting on that sorrowful journey of Our Lord and Saviour to Calvary. Our Way of the Cross was made all the more poignant given that today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. This helped us to reflect on the bitter sword which must have pierced Mary’s heart to see her dear Son insulted, scourged, beaten, nailed to the Cross and laid lifeless in her arms. We meditated on how much suffering there is in the world and on the particular pain of mothers who witness violence against their children nowadays.

They say that Jerusalem is the only city that exists twice: the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem. Our Way of the Cross and celebration of the Eucharist at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre this morning have been deeply moving experiences for our pilgrims – which have given us a glimpse of both the earthly and the heavenly Jerusalem!

Bishop Shomali, you know that an important focus of our visit here has been to offer solidarity with the Christian community – those who are descended from the first people to hear the message of Jesus.

We have become more and more conscious during our visit that Jerusalem is not only a holy city for Christians, Jews and Muslims, but it is also a wounded city. Conflict and injustice have taken a toll on this city and on its residents. We want to join our voices as people of Ireland to those speaking up and working for peace. We encourage you to keep on hoping, keep on working for reconciliation and we thank you and all in the Catholic Church of the Holy Land for your tireless efforts and pleas for peace, justice and mutual understanding.

It was very moving to read some of Archbishop Pizzaballa’s first words after his ordination last weekend when he longed for the “peace of Jerusalem” saying:

“I want to be a bishop for all, for those who are entrusted to me, first and foremost, but also for those who share love and concern for the Middle East, Jews and Muslims, for the poorest, for the whole Church”.

Our pilgrimage to the Holy Land has been much more than simply a visit to holy places; it has been an opportunity for us to have a personal encounter with Our Lord in the places where he was born, lived, taught, healed, suffered, died, rose again and ascended into heaven. We have been able to encounter Him especially in the celebration of the Eucharist at Magdala, Nazareth, Gethsemane and other churches here in Jerusalem. We have heard God speaking to us in His Word which has been coming alive to us in new ways as we read it in its original setting. We have also met the Lord in the people of these Holy Places – the ‘Living Stones’. To meet with you and your people, to hear about your joys, your struggles and your pain stories, and then to communicate these messages back to our parishes, communities and families in Ireland, that is what makes this a pilgrimage of Christian solidarity.

We wish to express that solidarity with you today, Bishop Shomali, and with all at the Latin Patriarchate, and through you to the People of God you serve. You are courageously taking up the challenge to witness to the Gospel values of justice and peace. We had the privilege while in Bethlehem of meeting with representatives the Saint Yves Catholic Center for Human Rights. They shared with us some of the ways in which they are concretely putting in to practice the Church’s social teaching by working on behalf of the vulnerable and the marginalised.

This outreach is just one of many good works operating under the patronage of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Perhaps you can tell us more about your work in parishes, schools and universities and suggest ways in which we might be able to help promote awareness and practical outreach when we return home to Ireland in a few days time.

We will leave Jerusalem physically exhausted but spiritually refreshed and renewed, especially for the remainder of this Jubilee Year of Mercy and beyond. We are conscious that our pilgrimage does not end when we return home. As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us during his own pilgrimage to the Holy Land “no individual, family, community or nation is exempt from the duty to live in justice and to work for peace.”

That is our challenge! We look forward to hearing more about this from you Bishop Shomali and we thank you once more for your gracious welcome to Jerusalem.


· Archbishop Eamon Martin is the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. Archbishop Martin is leading an eight-day pilgrimage of solidarity to the Holy Land accompanied by 177 pilgrims from all around Ireland.

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