(Vatican Radio) Each year, Bishops from around the world travel to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage to support the Christian community in the land of Jesus’ birth.
Organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the annual Holy Land Coordination brings together Bishops from different countries, especially countries that have historically had an influence in the Holy Land. This year’s visit included Bishops from the Europe, North America, and South Africa.
Vatican Radio’s Christopher Wells was with the Bishops during the week long pilgrimage. In the day’s leading up to Easter, we’re publishing Christopher’s stories about the Holy Land Coordination visit.
In our first story, Christopher spoke with the Director of the Holy Land Coordination, Father Mark Madden of Liverpool, England, about the visit to the Holy Land.
The priorities for the Coordination are quite specific, Fr Madden said, “in that the purpose of the Coordination is not to look at one particular theme and then go on to the next one. But we always act in solidarity with the people we meet every single year. And so, I suppose in some ways, in this year it’s a follow up from last year and previous years.”
Father Madden mentioned in particular the pastoral visit to Gaza ahead of the official opening of the Coordination, as the fulfilment of a promise “that we would always stay in solidarity with the people there.” The Bishops also visited the Cremisan Valley, where Christians are facing the confiscation of their land, and even destruction of their property as the Israeli government attempts to build a security wall. The Coordination returned as well to the Christian community in Beit Jala “again to show them that it’s not, we don’t just look at issues from one year, and go on to the next one, that we will always stay with those people, that we will always stay with those issues.”
The Holy Land Coordination, though, does not simply focus on Israel and the Paletinian territories. “We often, when we look at the Holy Land, we often look at only the Palestinians and the issues and the struggles that they are facing,” said Fr Madden. “But the Jordanians are also facing their own struggles; they’re also facing difficulties as well.” In Jordan, he said, the visit focused on the local Christian community and how they are “coping with the influx of refugees, but also to see the difficulties that the Jordanian Christians are facing.”
Father Madden also spoke about the objectives for the Holy Land Coordination. “I think our goal is primarily to fully see if we can inform the Bishops so that they can go home, because really the work of the Coordination takes place once we go home.” Although the visit is primarily a pastoral one, he said, it also aims at providing the Bishops with the tools they need to advocate in favour of the Christians of the Holy Land. “That’s our main goal: to fully equip the Bishops so they can be great advocates for the Church in the Holy Land, when they get back home and to their own environments.”