The Christian community of Gaza is again 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 11 January to 15 January, 2015.
Since the Bishops’ visit last year, the conflict last summer saw over 2,000 Gazans killed, including over 500 children. The United Nations estimated over 30% of the population were internally displaced as a result of the fighting.
The Christian community of Gaza is made up of 2,500 people, of whom Catholics number around 200, 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 go on to Sderot, an Israeli town hit by rockets fired from Gaza during the conflict and then on to Bethlehem, where they will be based for the remainder of the visit. On Tuesday 13 January, the Bishops will visit Hebron. They will also return 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).
On Wednesday 14 January, there will be visits to projects in the Bethlehem area, followed by a visit to Bethlehem University, where they will meet with students and staff, and to the seminary in Beit Jala.
During the visit, the Bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination will meet with His Beatitude Patriarch Twal and the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Lanzarotto.
The Bishops who will take part in this year’s Holy Land Co-ordination are:
Bishop Declan Lang, England & Wales (chair)
Archbishop Ricardo Fontana, Italy
Archbishop Joan Vives, Spain
Archbishop Patrick Kelly, England & Wales
Archbishop Stephen Brislin, South Africa
Bishop Michel Dubost, France
Bishop Oscar Cantu, United States
Bishop Lionel Gendron, Canada
Bishop William Kenney, England & Wales
Bishop Stephen Ackermann, Germany
Bishop Thomas Renz, Germany
Bishop Raymond Browne, Ireland
Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Ireland
Bishop Peter Burcher, Scandinavia
Bishop Felix Gmur, Switzerland
Bishop Christopher Chessun, Church of England
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.