About to commence his trip to the Holy Land, Archbishop of Liverpool Patrick Kelly, Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has issued a statement on the Gaza crisis. Calling for an end to the violence, he noted the struggles of the small Christian community in Gaza and the “unique vocation” of the Church in the Holy Land.
“Everyone I meet at this time speaks with immense sadness of the suffering and destruction taking place in Gaza and the fears of the people in Israel because of rocket attacks,” Archbishop Kelly said on Tuesday, saying he shares such sadness.
“The conflict has deep roots but the priority now must be the immediate end to all violence,” he continued. “Violence is evil especially when it blocks humanitarian relief desperately needed. Because the roots are so deep and complex this outburst of violence cries out for such wise and courageous leadership that justice for all those for whom the Holy Land is home is achieved so that all violence is relegated to the past and peace shall be secured for generations to come.”
“I am also very conscious at this time of the small Christian community living in Gaza. The people, religious sisters and parish priest, Fr. Manuel, need our prayers as they struggle to witness to the Gospel of Peace.
“The Church in the Holy Land has a unique vocation,” he continued, saying his visit is one means to stand alongside Christians living throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”
The archbishop will be leading a group of European and North American bishops to the Holy Land from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15. The group, part of the Co-ordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land, aims to act in solidarity with local Christians and to share in the pastoral life of the local Church as it suffers intense political and social-economic pressure.
“The purpose of the Holy Land co-ordination has always been to accompany the Churches in the Holy Land in their fidelity to two God-given tasks: never to be silent in the face of injustice or violence and always to proclaim and live the reconciliation accomplished by our Lord on a hill called Calvary,” Archbishop Kelly explained.
He added that the situation in Gaza makes the visit “a clear call from the Holy Spirit.”
“I join with the Holy Father and the leaders of the Church in the Holy Land in their prayer for the dead, the injured, the broken hearted, those who mourn and live night and day in fear,” the bishop concluded.
During their visit, Archbishop Kelly and the visiting bishops will meet with students at Bethlehem University and with seminarians at Beit Jala seminary. They will hold Mass at parishes and meet with parishioners across the West Bank. In addition, they will walk to Bethlehem with West Bank schoolchildren.
The visiting bishops will also receive briefings from the papal nuncio and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials, and conduct ecumenical meetings.