Bishop Noel Treanor of Down & Connor and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe, along with Mr Seán Farrell, Head of International Development with Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland, this week join with bishops from across Europe and North America to promote dialogue and peace in the Holy Land. This pastoral visit, from 11 to 16 January, will focus on Christians in Gaza, East Jerusalem and Ramallah.
This annual visit was set up over 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.
During their stay, the bishops will be based in Ramallah with an overnight visit to Gaza, where they will celebrate Sunday Mass on 12 January with the small Christian community in Gaza.
The visiting bishops are mindful that, during Christmas 2019, the Israeli government prevented Gazan Christians from visiting Bethlehem or families and relatives in the West Bank. The bishops are determined, therefore, to go to Gaza to help remind the small Christian community that they are not forgotten as Christians. In addition, at this time, Gazan Christians are being reassured that their fellow Christians from the bishops’ home countries are praying for all Gazans and for an end to the conflict.
Following the celebration of this Mass – in itself a visible act of solidarity – the bishops will visit the House of Peace run by the Missionaries of Charity; meetings with young people; visit Christian parishioners, and undertake a pastoral visit to the sick in the community.
Bishops will also meet with young people in both Jerusalem and Ramallah to listen to their hopes and experiences as they grow up in this divided society. Archbishop Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator to the Latin Patriarchate, and Nuncio Archbishop Girelli will meet with the bishops to discuss the current situation.
As well as planned meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials, there will also be visits to East Jerusalem and the Comboni sisters in Bethany, and to the school and parish in Ramallah.