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. The annual Holy Land Coordination group visit brings together bishops from different countries and this year it includes bishops from Europe, North America, and South Africa.
This year’s visit will take place from 14-19 January. Part of the delegation will also make a special visit to the small Christian community in Gaza from 12-13 January.
Beginning on the eve of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the first day of the pilgrimage will be devoted to the situation of Christian migrants and refugees present in Israel. In the morning, in the city of Jaffa, the group will participate in the traditional ‘Mass of the Peoples’, animated by the various national communities present in Israel. In the afternoon, the bishops will transfer to Tel Aviv where they will visit the Pastoral Centre for Migrants.
Over the days following, the delegation will tackle the theme of the 50 years of occupation, visiting Hebron and East Jerusalem, examining in depth the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and visiting initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and mutual respect such as the Tent of Nations in Bethlehem. Along with opportunities for prayer and the daily celebration with the various Catholic Parishes of Bethlehem, members of the delegation will meet with local bishops of the Holy Land, staff and students of Bethlehem University, diplomats, and those involved with Catholic charitable bodies.
To mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the afternoon of Wednesday 18 January will be devoted to ecumenical dialogue with a meeting of local Christian leaders in the Holy Land, followed by prayer in the Anglican Cathedral of Saint George in Jerusalem.
The following bishops will be participating in the Holy Land Co-ordination pilgrimage this year:
Bishop Declan Lang, England and Wales (Coordinator)
Bishop Lionel Gendron, Canada
Bishop Michel Dubost, France
Bishop Stephen Ackermann, Germany
Archbishop Riccardo Fontana, Italy
Bishop Pierre Bürcher, Iceland
Bishop William Nolan, Scotland
Archbishop Joan-Enric Vives Sicilia, Spain
Bishop Felix Gmür, Switzerland
Bishop Oscar Cantu, USA
Bishop William Kenney, England and Wales
Bishop Nicholas Hudson, England and Wales (COMECE)
Church of England Bishop Christopher Chessun
The bishops will be accompanied by Mgr Duarte da Cunha, General Secretary of CCEE.
The Irish delegation this year will include Dr Conn MacGobhann, Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference; Fr Paul Clayton-Lea, Editor of Intercom magazine; and Sister Geraldine Henry and Sean Farrell of Trócaire.
The Holy Land Coordination was established at the end of the 20th century at the invitation of the Holy See with the aim of visiting and supporting the Holy Land’s local Christian communities. Since the 1990s, the Coordination has been making an annual visit to the Christian communities present in the Holy Land.
For more information, see www.ccee.eu.