The Christian community in the Holy Land represents a physical link between the modern world and the life and times of Christ – they are the ‘living stones’ of our faith. Since 2000, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has organised the Holy Land Co-ordination. In 2022, Pax Christi International was represented by our board member Fr Paul Lansu. The final message from the visit is below.
Photo: Mykhailo Svyrydovych via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
‘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
England and Wales (Chair of the Holy Land Coordination)
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