Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
At the end of a trip to the Holy Land, a group of European bishops lamented the threats to Jerusalem’s Christians, noting in particular the attack on mourners at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh.
“The Christian community is essential to Jerusalem’s identity, both now and for the future. Yet its continued presence is threatened by occupation and injustice,” read the May 26 final communique of the Holy Land Coordination group.
“Many of those we encountered are facing violence and intimidation by settler groups, restrictions on their freedom of movement, or separation from their families because of the status they are assigned.”
Six bishops from across Europe visited Jerusalem May 21-26. Since 2000, the Holy Land Coordination has taken an annual trip to the Holy Land, promoting awareness, action, and prayer for the region. The group was founded by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“We share the concerns expressed by the Christian community about unilateral restrictions on freedom of worship during Easter, imposed by the Israeli police,” the bishops stated. “We experienced the deep sorrow and anger felt by local Christians at the killing of Palestinian Catholic journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the shameful attack on mourners at her funeral.”
Abu Akleh was a Melkite Greek Catholic and a Palestinian American who was killed while covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank May 11. During her funeral procession May 13, Abu Akleh’s coffin nearly fell as police waded into the crowd brandishing batons and using stun grenades.
The bishops said that Jerusalem is a “common patrimony” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and it must “never become the exclusive monopoly of any one religion.”
“We came to meet and pray with our sisters and brothers, mindful of Patriarch Pizzaballa’s message that it is our right and duty as Christians to uphold the city’s openness and universality.”
They noted that “people of all backgrounds are living in poverty, which has been compounded by the pandemic. The absence of pilgrims during the past two years has devastated livelihoods, including among Jerusalem’s Christian community, leaving some families struggling to afford housing, food, or other essentials.”
The bishops added that there are “signs of hope,” however. “We visited Christian organisations taking responsibility for the wellbeing of their community and wider society. They are working tirelessly to alleviate hardship and improve lives. We met young people who, despite facing daily violations of their fundamental human rights, refuse to be the last generation of Christians in the city.”
They urged pilgrims “to support Christians in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy Land,” saying, “It is essential that all pilgrims understand and engage with the reality of life for the Christian community here.”
“All Christians must help preserve the city’s sacred character,” they wrote, “and promote an authentic vision for Jerusalem as a place of dialogue and unity.”
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The true face of Israel, perhaps?