BETHLEHEM - From April 28 to 30, 2023, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, made a pastoral visit to St. Catherine's in the city of Bethlehem, where he prayed, listened to the consecrated persons and parishioners, and took note of all the pastoral activities of the parish.
On the first day, the Terra Sancta scout group welcomed His Beatitude at the entrance of the church of Saint Catherine, along with Fr. Rami As'akira, the parish priest, who expressed his joy for the Patriarch's visit. Mgr Pizzaballa then met with the scouts before going to Bethlehem University, where he met with Fr. Iyad Twal, Executive Vice President of Bethlehem University, as well as several heads of departments to learn about the latest developments on the campus.
Because his pastoral visit focused on listening to the needs and opinions of the consecrated as well as the laypeople of the parish, and to provide proper care for them, His Beatitude also met with the sisters of Saint Dorothy, who serve at the Effeta Institute, and the Salesian Fathers. He also took the time to visit the parish groups of the Institution of Catholic Action, who introduced themselves and explained the voluntary activities they carry out in the parish. Mgr Pizzaballa thanked them for the active role they play in helping the faithful in their faith journey and contributing to the enrichment of the Christian presence.
On the second day, the Patriarch visited the parish schools and the Antonian society, where he frist met the seniors and the sick and then the youth, whom he listened to and with whom he shared his plans to revive Christian formation in the parish.
On the third and final day, His Beatitude celebrated the feast of the Good Shepherd with the members of the parish, by presiding over a Mass in the church of Saint Catherine. During his homily, he emphasized the importance of his visit, which allowed him to have an overview of the current situation of the parishioners. He also stressed the important work of religious communities in society. "You have given me a lot of work to do, and I will follow up on all the concerns and questions I heard from all of you during this short visit, hoping to see you again soon for a longer time," he said. He concluded his visit with a meeting with Mr. Hanna Hanania, the mayor of Bethlehem, and several members of the city council, with whom he discussed several issues faced by the city's Christian community. Afterward, he went to the Governorate House, where he was welcomed by Mr. Kamil Hamid, the governor of Bethlehem, as well as by the civil and security forces, with whom he discussed ways of fostering peaceful relations between the Muslim and Christian communities.