Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, and bishop from across Europe, North America and South Africa will travel to the Holy Land over the coming days to promote dialogue and peace as part of the annual Holy Land Co-ordination Pilgrimage. During the pilgrimage, bishops will meet with young people in Israel and Palestine and promote the value of education in building peace in the region.
The focus of this year’s pilgrimage is on education and young people. During the pilgrimage bishops will take part in a series of meetings and visits to promote the value of education for young people and the importance education has in building peace in the region.
Speaking ahead of the pilgrimage, Bishop McKeown said, ‘A key purpose of our pilgrimage is to remind the Christian communities in the Holy Land that they are not forgotten by their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.’
In addition to meeting students and young people from Gaza, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the bishops will also meet the ‘Parents Circle – Families Forum’, a body which brings together more than 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost a relation due to the prolonged conflict and who today, through various initiatives, support peace, reconciliation and tolerance.
The pilgrimage will begin this Sunday 14 January, with bishops celebrating Mass with the small Christian community in Gaza, followed by a visit to the Missionaries of Charity run House of Peace. Bishops will also meet with young Christians in the area and make a pastoral visit to the sick in the community.
During the pilgrimage, bishops will also meet with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to discuss the role of education as an instrument of peace and justice, and will visit a number of Christian schools in the region. Bishops will also travel to Emmaus-Quibeibeh to visit a home for the elderly and volunteers at the home. They will also meet with Brother Peter Bray, Vice-rector of the University of Bethlehem, who will present on the Quibeibeh Nursing Programme which offers job opportunities for young people in the largely rural area.
The following bishops will take part in the Holy Land Co-ordination:
Bishop Declan Lang (Clifton, England and Wales – Co-ordinator)
Bishop Lionel Gendron (Saint-Jean Longueuil, Canada)
Bishop Udo Bentz (Mainz, Germany)
Archbishop Riccardo Fontana (Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, Italy)
Bishop Donal McKeown (Derry, Ireland)
Bishop Pierre Bürcher (Iceland)
Bishop Mgr José Ornela Carvalho (Setubal, Portugal)
Bishop William Kenney (Birmingham, England and Wales)
Bishop Nicholas Hudson (Westminster, England and Wales)
Bishop Christopher Chessun (Church of England, United Kingdom)
Bishop William Nolan (Galloway, Scotland)
Archbishop Joan-Enric Vives Sicilia (Urgell, Spain)
Archbishop Mgr Stephen Brislin (Cape Town, South Africa)
Bishop Mgr Dr. Felix Gmür (Basel, Switzerland)
Bishop Oscar Cantu (La Cruces, USA)
The Holy Land co-ordination pilgrimage is organised by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. This annual visit was set up 20 years ago at the invitation of the Holy See with the aim of visiting and supporting the Holy Land’s local Christian communities as they experience the political and socio-economic realities of living in Israel and Palestine. The Co-ordination’s raison d’être can be expressed through the ‘3 Ps’: Prayer, Pilgrimage, Persuasion.