Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Holy Land Coordination, spoke to James Abbott from the Bishop’s Conference just before leaving Jerusalem about this year’s meeting.
Bishops and lay delegates visited the holy city of Jerusalem from 21 – 26 May to stand in solidarity with the local Christian communities and to express their support through the four Ps: Prayer, Pilgrimage, Pressure and Presence.
Bishop Lang talks about a lively and constructive exchange with young people as well as a poignant meeting with the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Christian Palestinian journalist killed in Jenin.
He also discusses the Latin Patriarch’s vision for a new narrative for Jerusalem as well as a visit to St Rachel’s House in the city – a shelter that offers safe haven for the children of migrants and asylum seekers.
No visit of the Holy Land Coordination group is complete without a series of pastoral visits to celebrate Mass with the faithful in parishes around Jerusalem and the West Bank. Bishop Lang talks about his visit to St Savior’s in Jerusalem on Sunday, 22 May.
Pictures from the Holy Land Coordination visit can be found here: https://flickr.com/photos/catholicism/albums/72177720299167711/
Holy Land Coordination 2022
‘If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither’
Jerusalem is a Jewish city, a Christian city, a Muslim city. It must remain a common patrimony and never become the exclusive monopoly of any one religion. We came to meet and pray with our sisters and brothers, mindful of Patriarch Pizzaballa’s message that it is our right and duty as Christians to uphold the city’s openness and universality.
The Christian community is essential to Jerusalem’s identity, both now and for the future. Yet its continued presence is threatened by occupation and injustice. Many of those we encountered are facing violence and intimidation by settler groups, restrictions on their freedom of movement, or separation from their families because of the status they are assigned.
We share the concerns expressed by the Christian community about unilateral restrictions on freedom of worship during Easter, imposed by the Israeli police. We experienced the deep sorrow and anger felt by local Christians at the killing of Palestinian Catholic journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the shameful attack on mourners at her funeral.
We witnessed how many people of all backgrounds are living in poverty, which has been compounded by the pandemic. The absence of pilgrims during the past two years has devastated livelihoods, including among Jerusalem’s Christian community, leaving some families struggling to afford housing, food, or other essentials.
Amid these challenges, there are nevertheless signs of hope. We visited Christian organisations taking responsibility for the wellbeing of their community and wider society. They are working tirelessly to alleviate hardship and improve lives. We met young people who, despite facing daily violations of their fundamental human rights, refuse to be the last generation of Christians in the city.
As pilgrims return once more, we call upon them to support Christians in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land. It is essential that all pilgrims understand and engage with the reality of life for the Christian community here. A true Holy Land pilgrimage should be a journey of faith, encounter, and solidarity.
Pope Francis affirms the universal value of Jerusalem, which goes beyond any consideration of territorial issues.
Inspired by Christ our Peace, all Christians must help preserve the city’s sacred character and promote an authentic vision for Jerusalem as a place of dialogue and unity.
26 May 2022
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Bishop Declan Lang
Chair of the Holy Land Coordination
England and Wales
Bishop Udo Bentz
Bishop Peter Bürcher
Nordic and Swiss Bishops’ Conference
Bishop Nicholas Hudson
Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union
Bishop Alan McGuckian
Archbishop William Nolan