The Most Revd Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, will be leading a group of European and North American bishops to the Holy Land from 13 to 18 January this year.
Joining Archbishop Kelly from England and Wales will be Bishop Christopher Budd, from Plymouth diocese, and Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham.
The purpose of the visit is to support the Churches and Christian community in the Holy Land: firstly, as they seek never to be silent in the face of injustice and violence, secondly to do this in such a way that they are always faithful to the reconciliation accomplished by Jesus of Nazareth on that hill in Jerusalem called Calvary.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly says of the visit:
“This visit is the third stage over the past month in the commitment by the Catholic Community in England and Wales to the Church in the Holy Land. The first stage was the ecumenical pilgrimage just before Christmas in which Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor took part.
“The second was the broadcast by BBC television of Midnight Mass from Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King; at that Mass Bethlehem, not only as it was 2000 years ago but as it is today, was the focus of reflection and prayer. This communion with Bethlehem was deepened by the participation of Johnny Bassous, graduate of Bethlehem’s University.
“The third stage is this visit by bishops from several countries, to listen, to observe, and to learn and as always, to accompany, in days of great uncertainty and fear, our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land, in their commitment to the deed of Jesus Christ on Calvary by which he made possible for us all reconciliation with God and with each other.”
This year, there will be bishops from Canada, England and Wales, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United States of America. The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Union (ComECE). Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services, Pax Christi International, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the Pontifical Mission Society, Vatican Radio and the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation will also be represented.
All the participants join in prayer with local Christians and this year communities in Nazareth and around the Galilee will also take part. Many become personally involved in particular projects to offer practical help – this is something bishops can then take back to their own dioceses and conferences. Several of the bishops who take part in these meetings have themselves led pilgrimages to the Holy Land. One of the key focuses of the Holy Land Co-ordination is to encourage more Christians to go on pilgrimage to this land.