STATEMENT – The Bishops of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land met on November 3-4, 2015 at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Below is the official statement published at the conclusion of their meetings.
The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land held its plenary on November 3-4, 2015 at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A number of issues were discussed.
- The Year of Mercy which starts on December 8, will be an opportunity for a spiritual renewal for our faithful. The program of celebrations has been set. Several Holy Doors will open in Churches in different countries (Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Jerusalem and Cyprus). But the priority will be the opening of the hearts of our faithful to God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation and mutual forgiveness. Several activities will be implemented to achieve the best results.
On February 11, 2016, the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated in Nazareth. The highlight of this day will be the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to be conferred to a large number of sick, coming from Europe and our local Church, in the presence of a Papal Legate. It will be another moment of grace.
- The Assembly at length returned to the Synod held in Rome in October, on “the role and mission of the family in the modern world”. We emphasize, as did the Synod Assembly, the need and the urgency to improve the preparation of couples for marriage, to lead a true reflection on the meaning, beauty and vocation of religious marriage. Couples, especially those who are in crisis, more than ever, need to be accompanied and supported.
- The Assembly wishes to thank Pope Francis for the publication, last September of two “Motu Proprio”, to ease and simplify judicial procedures for the nullity of marriage, to make them more accessible, faster and less costly to the faithful. We expect to learn more about the task that will now be reserved to the Diocesan Bishop.
- Through the conferences of two experts, the Assembly could deepen sensitive issues related to Bioethics. It was decided to establish four health pastoral committees for the four regions of the Holy Land.
We encourage organ donation, as a “particular form of the witness of charity” (Benedict XVI), for the sake of the human family.
- We welcome and encourage the valuable work of Caritas Jerusalem with the most needy people, especially in the fields of education, health and development. Several activities have been carried out in Gaza, following the devastating war of last summer. The Bishops suggested starting in each parish, a local committee to be in charge of the poor, in order to “relieve” the national Caritas.
- Despite the recent wave of violence, we noted with relief that pilgrims continue to come to the Holy Land in large numbers in the months of September and October. We renew the appeal already made on several occasions, to all people willing to walk in the footsteps of Christ: do not be afraid! The people of this Land need your testimony. To better live this Year of Mercy, we recommend that the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance be included in the program of pilgrims. Our Pilgrimage Committee will work to make this sacrament more accessible at the various shrines. yet more easily accessible in various shrines
Finally, we urge our faithful not to be discouraged, not to give in to pessimism, but remain firm in the faith, to be peacemakers, witnesses of God’s mercy, and joyful witnesses of Christ, our Peace!