- Delegation included Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe
Mandated by the Holy See, the Holy Land Co-ordination meets and travels to the Holy Land every January with a focus on prayer, pilgrimage and persuasion. Its aim is to act in solidarity with the Christian community as it experiences intense political and social-economic pressure in the Holy Land. Since 1998 the Coordination group has met at the invitation of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. The names of the bishops participating in this year’s week-long Holy Land Co-ordination visit are listed below. Amongst their support staff were the Research Coordinator with the Irish Episcopal Conference’s Council for Justice & Peace and Mr Sean Farrell, Head of International Development with Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Please see below the final statement from this year’s visit:
The Holy Land Coordination stands in solidarity with all Christians in Israel and Palestine. Our ongoing advocacy for a just peace is informed by an annual pilgrimage to meet with our sisters and brothers, listen to them, and witness the challenges they face. This year our focus has been those Christians who live in the state of Israel.
Standing in solidarity with Israel’s Christians
Throughout our visit we have experienced how there are Israeli citizens from many different backgrounds who coexist and work together for the Common Good of their society. We recognise that Israel was founded on the stated principles of equality between all its citizens. This urgently needs to become the lived reality.
Israel’s Christians wish to live as full citizens, with their rights recognised in a plural and democratic society. We have seen the vital contribution that they make especially through schools, hospitals, involvement in public life and attempting to build bridges between different faiths. Yet it is clear that at the same time they face profound difficulties across all aspects of their lives. We have heard that, along with other Palestinian Arab citizens and migrants living in Israel, many Christians find themselves systematically discriminated against and marginalised. Those we met expressed particular concern about the Nation State Law that was passed since our last visit to the Holy Land. Local Christian leaders have warned that this creates a “constitutional and legal basis for discrimination” against minorities, undermining the ideals of equality, justice and democracy. We stand with Israel’s Christians and all those challenging discrimination, in support of their call to protect the country’s pluralism.
As we approach this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we reaffirm our solidarity with all of the Churches here, and pray that Christians may work more closely together in the pursuit of justice and peace.
Human dignity under occupation
Our delegation also travelled to Palestine, where despite the faith and resilience of those we met, the misery of occupation has been deepened by severe cuts to humanitarian funding by the US government. Healthcare, education and other basic services for refugees are being increasingly threatened, exacerbating the ongoing violations of their fundamental human dignity. This cannot be ignored or tolerated. We call upon our own governments to help meet the funding gaps now faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and redouble their efforts towards a diplomatic solution, with two democratic sovereign states of Israel and Palestine existing in peace.
Hope for the future
We are a people who believe in the truth of the Resurrection and so we have hope for the future. As we return to our home countries we echo the words of Pope Francis: “Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts!” We admire our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land for not losing hope and we commit ourselves through prayer, pilgrimage and practical solidarity, to helping keep that hope alive.
Bishop Declan Lang – England and Wales (chair of the Holy Land Coordination group)
Bishop Stephen Ackermann – Germany
Archbishop Stephen Brislin – South Africa
Archbishop Timothy Broglio – United States of America
Bishop Peter Bürcher – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden
Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni – Italy
Bishop Christopher Chessun – the Church of England
Bishop Michel Dubost – France
Bishop Lionel Gendron – Canada
Bishop Felix Gmur – Switzerland
Bishop William Kenney – England and Wales
Bishop Alan McGuckian – Ireland
Bishop William Nolan – Scotland
Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho – Portugal
Bishop Noel Treanor – Ireland
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: +353 (1) 5053017 or Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678