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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)

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