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The bishop blogs

Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land
Bishop Melczek’s blog: Thursday, September 18, 2014

 

     Our delegation of bishops from the United States began our final day in the Holy Land at the place where Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was born. We celebrated Mass, invoking God's blessing of peace upon the Holy Land at the Nativity Church. This was especially emotional because of the mystery we were celebrating and knowing that this was our last Mass of our pilgrimage.

     Following Mass, we had an interfaith prayer service for peace at a park in Bethlehem. Before praying, the mayor of Bethlehem, a Catholic woman who had taught at Bethlehem University, gave a very moving speech. She began by mentioning that Pope Francis used the words "human brotherhood" nine times when he celebrated Mass in Nativity Square. She spoke of our need to live as brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and to promote true brotherhood through dialogue and respect for each other. These are the means to achieving the love that Jesus asked all of us to share with each other. Then a Muslim and one of our bishops offered prayers for peace.

     Next, we went to the Vatican-sponsored Bethlehem University, which is run by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. This university recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and educates more than 3,000 students each year, around 74 percent of which are women, 70 percent Muslim and 30 percent Christian. The school promotes in a very practical way the human brotherhood Pope Francis asks us to build and the students have a deep respect for each other, whatever their religion.

     We then visited the most populated Palestinian city, where there has been a great deal of conflict between Christians and those who live in Jewish settlements. Catholic Relief Services is sponsoring a program to promote Human Rights in the midst of the many great conflicts.

     Finally, we had dinner at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, which was initially promoted by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. The institute is currently sponsored by the Vatican and run by the Holy Cross fathers from Notre Dame. Of particular note is the fact that Congregation of the Holy Cross Father Russ McDougall, the new rector, was raised in Merrillville at St. Andrew Parish, and his family remains there. This was a splendid opportunity for us to share with one another, as well as the Muslim and Jewish guests, the highlights of our week of prayer and dialogue for peace. Our guests strongly affirmed our efforts to promote peace, despite the many causes for discouragement. They asked that we remain firm in our hope and speak out on behalf of persevering a two-state solution and the settlement of the very thorny issues, including Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, boundaries and a shared city of Jerusalem. Clearly the separation wall and the militaristic occupation must come to an end.

     I want to thank all of you for your deep interest in peace for the Holy Land and for your prayerful solidarity with the Christian communities and all residents of the Holy Land, and also with me and my brother bishops during this pilgrimage.

+DJM

 

Bishop's blog with nun

Following Mass at St. Justin's Latin Church in Nablus, Bishop Dale J. Melczek listens to the concerns of two Palestinian Christians. The USCCB and Catholic Relief Services led a peace pilgrimage with 18 bishops from across the country to the Holy Land from Sept. 11-18. These bishops followed in the footsteps of Jesus and in the footsteps of Pope Francis, who visited the Holy Land in June, followng the devastation of war by only days. Their message: Prayer is powerful; peace is possible. (photo by Jennifer Hardy/Catholic Relief Services)

The bishop blogs

Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land
Bishop Melczek’s blog: Wednesday, September 17, 2014

     Greetings once again from Jerusalem! Today I, along with my brother bishops from the United States traveling on this pilgrimage, celebrated Mass, praying for peace in the Holy Land at the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem. Just as Mary brought Jesus to Elizabeth and Zachary, so we asked her intercession to bring the Prince of Peace to the Holy Land in these very troubled times.

     After Mass, we met with representatives of the Bureau of World Religious Affairs from the Department of Foreign Ministry of Israel. They expressed their gratitude for the visit of Pope Francis. They also expressed their appreciation for the document of the Second Vatican Council on interreligious dialogue, agreeing with us upon the importance of prayer to solve the very complex nature of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

     On a much more positive note, we later met with the officers of the Consul of Religious Leaders in the Holy Land: a Lutheran bishop, a Muslim, and a highly respected Jewish rabbi. I was deeply impressed with the genuine trust and friendship among them and their positive attitude regarding the possibility of peace in the future.

     They agreed that the solution to the conflict results in a two-state solution and insisted that Jerusalem must be a unified and shared city amongst people of the three religions: Christians, Jews and Muslims. These leaders reminded us that we must make a coalition for peace and not just solve conflicts with force. They shared our strong opinion that peace must be based upon justice. This was a very refreshing meeting because each party genuinely loved and respected the other, and there was a real basis for hope.

     We had lunch with shared prayer with another highly respected rabbi in the community. However, he did not project the same sense of hope that we felt from our previous meeting.

     We then had a deeply moving experience at Yad Vashem, the world's largest museum memorializing victims of the Holocaust. We were blessed with a tour guide who was a daughter of a deeply respected rabbi who survived the Holocaust. This 91-year-old rabbi and his wife also accompanied us. We were moved to the depth of our souls by the acts of violence and inhumanity that we have seen inflicted upon the Jewish people by Satan and the forces of evil. This visit enabled us to put faces on the millions of people who were killed because of hatred for fellow human beings.

     With God's help, may we learn from the past, and may our hearts be transformed to love each other as children of the same good and loving Father.

+DJM

 

Bishop's blog at Jacob's Well

Members of the USCCB 2014 Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land gather at Jacob's Well in Nablus, which is located in the crypt of a modern Greek Orthodox church. They offered a prayer for peace at the well and drank water from it. Many believe it to be the place where Jesus met the Samaritan woman. Earlier, the bishops celebrated Mass and met with parishioners of St. Justin's Latin Church in Nablus where parish priest Fr. Johnny Abu Khalil ministers to Christians. (photo by Jennifer Hardy/Catholic Relief Services)

 

The bishop blogs

Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land
Bishop Melczek’s blog: Monday, September 15, 2014

 

      This morning, we left the hotel early in order to spend considerable time at the capital temple area. After visiting the Dome of the Rock, we prayed for peace at Wailing Wall.

     After driving through the Jordan Valley to the Mount of the Beatitudes, we celebrated Holy Mass for peace and then had lunch with the Franciscan sisters.

     Afterward, we proceeded to Tabgha, which in Greek means seven springs. That is where Jesus appeared for the third time after His resurrection and asked Peter three times, "Do you love Me?" before asking him to feed My lambs and feed My sheep. We visited the town of Capharnaum, where Jesus worked many miracles and did much teaching.

     We then proceeded to the town of Nazareth where we met with the patriarch's auxiliary and then went beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, where the auxiliary bishop in charge of the north held a prayer sharing with Muslims and Jews in the auditorium.

+DJM

 

Bishop's blog Greek

Members of the USCCB's 2014 Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land, including Bishop Dale J. Melczek (at left), meet with Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The 18 U.S. bishops celebrated Mass at the Patriarchate and met Greek Orthodox, Anglican and other Christian leaders. (photo by Jen Hardy/Catholic Relief Services)

 

The bishop blogs

Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land
Bishop Melczek’s blog: Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 

     Greetings from Nazareth! Our group of 18 bishops from the U.S. celebrated Mass in Nazareth at the Annunciation Basilica and prayed for peace in the Holy Land. After Mass, we took the bus to Ramallah, where we first met with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Consul and director of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. She reaffirmed the position of the bishops that prayer is powerful and peace is possible. She also reinforced our position of the importance of a two-state solution and stressed the need for the United States to push for peace talks. She said the recent visit of Pope Francis serves as a strong encouragement for Christians to remain in the Holy Land.

     We then met with Dr. Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister. He commended the Catholic Church for its promotion of peace, and he also emphasized the great significance of the Pope Francis’ visit. He stressed the need for those of all religions within Palestine to be able to live and work together and the importance of retaining hope despite the current difficult situation. 

     Our group then had lunch with Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders and used that occasion to offer a common prayer for peace. Following lunch, we took the bus to Jaffa and the Peres Peace Center, built in 1996 on the Mediterranean seashore between Jaffa, populated mostly by Palestinians, and Tel Aviv, populated mostly by Jews. Again, the importance of Pope Francis, who brings love to a highly skeptical world and promotes peace, was emphasized.

+DJM

 

Bishop's Blog Gaza

Catholic Relief Services Gaza field manager Bassam Nassar points out damage incurred in Gaza during the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict to a delegation of U.S. bishops on Sept. 14. Bishop Dale J. Melczek travelled with his brother bishops as part of the USCCB's 2014 Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. They prayed with local Christians, talked to residents and surveyed the destruction of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. (photo by Matt McGarry/Catholic Relief Services)

 

The bishop blogs

Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land
Bishop Melczek’s blog: Sunday, September 14, 2014

    

     Greetings from Jerusalem. On Sunday, the U.S. Bishops' Pilgrimage of Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land separated into three groups to be with various groups of local people.

     Along with five other bishops, I celebrated Mass on this Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross with the parish community of St. Justin Martyr in Nablus, earlier called Shechem in the Bible. St. Justin was born in Nablus and was martyred in 165 A.D. The town is located one and one-half hours by bus from Jerusalem.

    The small parish of 200 Catholics sang and participated vigorously in Arabic. The parish school educates 700 students, of which 600 are Muslims, 70 are Christians, and 30 are Samaritans. From the first grade, children learn Arabic, English, and French.

     In this town of Jacob's Well, Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman at the well. She, in turn, invited the town people to come and listen to this holy man. Today only 770 people of the Samaritan sect remain, and 350 live and worship here at the top of Mount Gerizin. They believe only in the first five books of the Bible and adhere strictly to its teachings.

+DJM

 

Bishop Lawyer 

Bishop Dale J. Melczek stands with Israeli attorney Daniel Seidemann at the wall dividing East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank on Sept. 12. Bishop Melczek is among a contingent of 18 U.S. Catholic bishops participating in the USCCB's 2014 Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace.

(photo courtesy of Don Clemmer)

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