Every year bishops representing North America and Europe make a special visit to the Holy Land to meet with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Known as the Holy Land Coordination, the bishops spend the week visiting Christians in and around Jerusalem. They get to see how the average parish works, how Christians live alongside Jews and Muslims, what the challenges are, and what signs of hope are trying to shoot up through the rocky terrain.
This year's Holy Land Coordination ended January 12. The bishops released a communique summarizing their experience this year.
Resident's lives are dominated by fear and frustration, the Bishops say in their statement. "Blaming the other is an abdication of responsibility and a failure of leadership, a leadership that the people so desperately need," they add.
The bishops said it is important that dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and Israel resume. That dialogue is threatened by extremism and intolerance. Despite these serious challenges the bishops said they see signs of hope.
In Galilee an interfaith project provides hope that common ground can be found between people of different faiths, the housing projects of the Latin Patriarchate and the Custos of the Holy Land address the needs of the locals, and the increasing numbers of pilgrims to the region raise awareness of situation and bring in much needed tourist revenue for local artisan merchants.
On his first Holy Land Coordination visit, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton told Catholic News Service he spent much time listening to those he met and discovering the sheer complexity of the situation.
"One thing essential for forgiveness is an attitude of profound humility that recognizes that, in some way or another, everyone is contributing to the problems," he said.
"It is very easy to point a finger at the other, but what we all know as Christians is, for there to be genuine conversion of heart or genuine transformation, the first thing we have to examine is our own situation. And I'm not hearing a lot of that (here.)"
Archbishop Smith will be on a guest on Perspectives Daily on January 24. We'll be talking to him about his observations in the Holy Land.
Photo Courtesy of the Catholic Church of England and Wales