The Christian community of Gaza is the focal point of this year’s visit to the Holy Land by Bishops from across Europe, North America and South Africa in support of the local Christian communities and the pastoral work of the Church at the service of all in the Holy Land.
The Holy Land Co-ordination meets from 12 January to 16 January, 2014.
The Christian community of Gaza is made up of 2,500 people, of whom Catholics number around 300, in a total population of over 1.5 million. Religious sisters run a home for the elderly, a centre for the disabled and a kindergarten and with the parish of the Holy Family are also involved in the running of the Catholic schools for the community.
After celebrating mass with the Catholic community, the Bishops will visit Christian schools and hospitals to offer their support to the teachers and medical staff.
Following the two day visit to Gaza, the Bishops will meet with representatives of Israeli civil society and policy makers in Tel Aviv before going on to Bethlehem, where they will be based for the remainder of the visit. On Tuesday 14 January, the Bishops will meet with representatives of Palestinian civil society before meeting students and staff from Bethlehem University.
On Wednesday 15 January, there will be visits to projects supported by individual Bishops’ Conferences of the Holy Land Co-ordination focusing on education and youth empowerment schemes. Later that day, there will be a visit to the Cremisan Valley where the planned building of an Israeli security wall threatens the livelihoods of over 50 Christian families based in Beit Sahour and Beit Jala (in the Bethlehem area).
Following meetings with His Beatitude Patriarch Twal and the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Lanzarotto, mass will be celebrated for the 50th anniversary of Catholic Relief Services and an Ecumenical reception.
The Holy Land Co-ordination concludes with a visit to the Armenian Patriarchate on the Thursday morning, following prayers and mass.
The Bishops who will take part in this year’s Holy Land Co-ordination are:
Archbishop Stephen Brislin, South Africa
Bishop Pierre Burcher, Scandinavia
Bishop William Crean, Ireland
Bishop Kevin Dowling, South Africa
Bishop Michel Dubost, France
Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, Canada
Archbishop Patrick Kelly, England and Wales
Bishop William Kenney, England and Wales
Bishop Declan Lang, England and Wales
Bishop Denis Nulty, Ireland
Bishop Richard Pates, USA
Bishop Thomas Renz, Germany
Bishop Janusz Stepnowski, Poland
Archbishop Joan Enric Vives, Spain
Since 1998, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has organised the annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land and at the invitation of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. It’s often more simply called the Holy Land Co-ordination.
Mandated by the Holy See, the Holy Land Co-ordination meets every January in the Holy Land, focusing on prayer, pilgrimage and persuasion with the aim of acting in solidarity with the Christian community there and sharing in the pastoral life of the local Church as it experiences intense political and social-economic pressure.