The Holy Land Coordination, an annual event intended to advance work and solidarity with the local Christian community, will meet in Jerusalem again this January. Catholic prelates and bishops’ conference delegates will make pastoral visits and meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders while learning about the present situation of the Holy Land.
The Holy Land Coordination is mandated by the Holy See and has been organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) since 1998. Its 2010 meeting will be led by Archbishop of Liverpool Patrick Kelly.
Archbishop Kelly noted that the visit will take place between last year’s papal visit and the planned Synod on the Middle East.
“The focus will be on East Jerusalem, so we become wiser about this issue,” the archbishop said in a statement. Israel announced in late December that it would go ahead with the construction of 700 homes for Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, drawing sharp criticism from the U.S., Europe and Palestine.
On Sunday Jan. 10 delegates will conduct pastoral visits across the West Bank. The official opening session of the Coordination will take place the next day.
Archbishop Kelly explained that he will visit Nablus, whose parish is twinned with a parish in Liverpool.
“This attachment between our cities and the binding of the links between ordinary people is the way to ensure a better future in this Land that we call Holy,” he commented. “We hope to strengthen both the people of the Holy Land and also ourselves as people committed to justice and reconciliation.”
Among the many addresses of the opening session will be those delivered by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Fouad Twal and Archbishop Antonio Franco, the apostolic nuncio to Israel. The two prelates will give overviews of the situation of the Holy Land, where the Church experiences intense political, social and economic pressure.
Delegates will be briefed and will visit people in areas of Jerusalem which have suffered evictions and confiscations.
On Jan. 12, after the Jerusalem visits, delegates will be able to visit the housing project of Beit Safafa. They will also meet with some of the young couples who are beneficiaries of the project.
The Holy Land Coordination will end with a midday press conference on Thursday, Jan. 14 in the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, will act as chair for the plenary sessions.
Bishop of Tucson Gerald F. Kicanas, vice-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will be among the delegates. Other delegates include Canadian Bishops’ Conference (CBC) president Bishop Pierre Morissette and CBC General Secretary Msgr. Mario Paquette.