“As I prepare to make a solidarity visit to the Middle East in support of the local Church caught in the midst of regional conflicts, I recall in a special way our Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi Christmas message in which he invoked the ‘Prince of Peace’ to lead people to give up their arms and ‘undertake the path of dialogue,’” Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines said in a Jan. 3 statement.
Bishop Pates is traveling to Palestine and Israel Jan. 6-17 in order to study and discuss the situations challenging peace in the Middle East.
While in the region, Bishop Pates will attend a meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land, an organization comprised of bishops’ representatives from Europe, North America, and South Africa.
The group will seek to “understand the social, political and ecclesial realities of the Holy Land” during their meeting, and will work together to “advocate more effectively for justice and peace,” help to aid the Church in the area, and “support the mission of the Apostolic Nuncio.”
During his trip, Bishop Pates will also be lending support for ongoing peace talks across the Middle East.
When discussing his trip, Bishop Pates referenced Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message, a Christmas blessing addressed to the needs of the world.
During his message, the Pope discussed the need for peace and an end to violence around the globe, particularly in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Holy Land.
“Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance,” Pope Francis said of the country’s nearly three year long civil war. “Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world. And I also invite non-believers to desire peace with that yearning that makes the heart grow: all united, either by prayer or by desire. But all of us, for peace.”
Bishop Pates echoed the Pope’s concern for these areas, stating that in “addition to a special concern for the Church and People of Syria, Egypt, Israel and Palestine, we remain deeply concerned for South Sudan, the Central African Republic and all places that do not know God’s peace.”
Pope Francis will also be traveling to the Holy Land this year, meeting May 24-26 with Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Constantinople.
The US bishops' representative for international justice and peace is traveling to Palestine and Israel to support peace efforts in the region, and the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.