Charity official says papal visit to Holy Land an ‘important sign’ amid ‘immense’ problems
The Holy Land
The Holy Land

.- A charity official says that Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land is an "important sign" in the "nebulous" political situation of the Holy Land. Explaining the "immense" problems facing the Christian community there, she also reported on the continuing preparations for the papal visit.

Marie-Ange Siebrecht, a regional specialist for the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), recently returned from a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. She spoke about her impressions of the Holy Land in an ACN interview.

Siebrecht said individual churches are "very much occupied" with their preparations while Christians are "delighted" that Pope Benedict is coming.

"There are many posters, for example, announcing the papal visit," she said, reporting that Nazareth is building an amphitheatre-like structure where the Pope will celebrate Mass.

In preparation for Pope Benedict’s visit, a stage has been erected in the refugee camp of Aida in Bethlehem, but it was being moved because organizers felt the stage was too close to the separation wall which divides the Holy Land.

Siebrecht told ACN that every Christian who wants to see Pope Benedict probably will not have the opportunity to do so.

"At any rate, not the people in Gaza, and not the people in Bethlehem. But at least the Pope is coming directly to Bethlehem. But many people will not get permission to attend the big Masses in Nazareth and Jerusalem."

Responding to reports that Gaza Christians had voiced many doubts about whether the papal visit was opportune, Siebrecht said there is never going to be a "right moment" for such a visit.

"There is always something going wrong in this region," she told ACN. "I can only tell you what I saw and heard. In the main, people are hoping for a great deal from this papal visit, possibly even too much. For the Pope certainly won't be able to solve all their problems."

"In reality the Pope can only demonstrate goodwill and endeavor to talk to political and Church leaders. But I know from my own experience how difficult this is in Israel."

Siebrecht said the Pope is coming "as a pilgrim to the Holy Land." Though he cannot tear down "this terrible wall" in his visit, or resolve problems in Vatican-Israeli relations, it is "an important sign that he is coming at all."

She expressed hope that Pope Benedict will address the burdens of Holy Land Christians.

Siebrecht explained that it is "extremely laborious" for priests to obtain visas and there are other requirements for Catholic religious orders, for priests, sisters and religious. There is also discussion about whether the state of Israel might demand taxes from the Church.

Additionally, Israeli movement restrictions are an "immense problem" that separate Christian families and cause people to live in fear that they or their family members might someday be unable to return home from work or from visits outside their community.

"It is really very difficult for the Christians in the region around Bethlehem – it is a gigantic weight on the shoulders of these people."

"The people here are living as though in a prison, because of the wall. They can't go in, they can't get out. They feel like prisoners, and that is exactly what they are," she continued.

Siebrecht explained to ACN that several Israeli Jews told her that they believed their new government to be racist.

She added that she believed the conditions of Holy Land Christians will be one of the main topics of Pope Benedict’s discussions and speeches.

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic

Liturgical Calendar

April 20, 2014


All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:13-35


Daily Readings

First Reading:: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Second Reading:: Col 3:1-4
Gospel:: Jn 20:1-9

Homily of the Day

Lk 24:13-35


Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
Text only

Follow us: