16 – 21 January 2021
Bishops from across Europe, North America and South Africa will meet remotely this year to reflect on and discuss the realities of life for the Christians and peoples of the Holy Land.
In 2000, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was asked by the Vatican to organise an annual pilgrimage of Bishops and accompanying delegates with the aim of visiting and supporting the Holy Land’s local Christian communities as they experience the political and socio-economic realities of living in Israel and Palestine.
The Christians represent a physical link between the modern world and the life and times of Christ – they are the ‘living stones’ of our faith.
The Right Reverend Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and Moderator of the Holy Land Coordination, said:
“This year we are unable to come to the Holy Land on our annual visit. But we say clearly to the Holy Land’s Christians ‘you are not forgotten’ as we embark on our first virtual Coordination. We commit to listening attentively to people’s experiences of the pandemic under continuing occupation to understand better the current realities.
“We thank all those in the Holy Land who will be sharing their lives stories with us as we stand in solidarity with them and all those who join them in the struggle for peace and justice for all.”
This year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the bishops will take part in a remote programme from 16 – 21 January enabling them to meet and engage with regional religious and political leaders and learn more about a number of local projects and social initiatives to help the poor and in need.
The impact of the pandemic on tourism and pilgrimages, directly impacting the livelihoods of local Christians, cannot be ignored and will come into sharp focus as will the region’s COVID vaccination programme and the right of Palestinians to have fair access to it.
The group will meet remotely for the first time on Saturday evening, 16 January, following the local time in Jerusalem, to link up with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to discuss the current situation in the Holy Land.
The bishops will join the celebration of live-streamed Masses from Latin Patriarchate parishes on Sunday before convening online on Monday 18 January to meet with the new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli. They will express the on-going solidarity of the universal Church with the Christian communities in the Holy Land and call international attention to their plight.
On Tuesday, the delegates will be briefed on the current situation in Gaza and will, among other things, learn more about the COVID response in Gaza and talk to the representatives of a job creation project and a ‘Home of Peace’ for children with disabilities.
The young people of Israel and Palestine and, of course, the role of education are central themes of the Holy Land Co-ordination and the Bishops will engage in these realities on Wednesday.
The 2021 Holy Land Co-ordination concludes on Thursday 21 January when the bishops will issue a final communique.
The Holy Land Co-ordination focuses on the three ‘P’s: Prayer, Pilgrimage and Persuasion.
Prayer is the framework of the annual meeting, with daily celebration of the Eucharist, often in different rites. Pilgrimage to the local Catholic communities is a key part of the visit and the Bishops often meet with local politicians. The ‘Persuasion’ component usually occurs when the delegates return to their home countries and share their views with parliamentarians, diplomats and the media on a wide range of issues affecting the lives of Christians in the Holy Land.
O God of our ancestors,
you gave us the Earth to make our home
so that all peoples may live together in harmony.
We have allowed our sad divisions to grow,
causing discord and fear of one another.
We have scarred the land through our pride.
May we learn from the past
and remember all those who have suffered,
all those who have lost their lives.
O God of today and every day,
you walk alongside us in our daily lives.
We seek a place to make our home
where we can live in peace and fulfilment
and our families grow in love and prosperity.
May we raise up new foundations
reach out to our neighbours
and welcome the stranger in our midst.
O God guide our steps to a future beyond our hopes
solutions cannot just be drawn like lines on paper,
but through the changing of hearts and minds.
Open our eyes to see that while we suffer,
we may also inflict suffering on others.
That in trying to protect ourselves,
we may be leaving less space for trust.
God of mercy and compassion,
we place in your hands this land and all its people,
guide and support all those who seek to establish that justice,
which alone ensures true and lasting peace.
We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
Rt Rev Udo Bentz
Auxiliary Bishop of Mainz
Most Rev Stephen Brislin
Archbishop of Cape Town
Rt Rev Christopher Chessun
Bishop of Southwark
Church of England
Rt Rev Michel Dubost
Bishop Emeritus of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes
Rt Rev Lionel Gendron
Bishop Emeritus of Saint-Jean Longueuil
Rt Rev Felix Gmur
Bishop of Basel
Rt Rev Nicholas Hudson
Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster
England and Wales
Most Rev Patrick Kelly
Archbishop Emeritus of Liverpool
England and Wales
Rt Rev William Kenney
Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham
England and Wales
Rt Rev Declan Lang (Moderator)
Bishop of Clifton
England and Wales
Rt Rev Alan McGuckian
Bishop of Raphoe
Rt Rev David Malloy
Bishop of Rockford
United States of America
Rt Rev William Nolan
Bishop of Galloway
Rt Rev Raymond Poisson
Bishop of Mont-Laurier
Rt Rev Noel Treanor
Bishop of Down and Connor
Most Rev Joan Enric Vives Sicilia
Archbishop of Urgell