Catholics in Holy Land Need Schools and Pilgrims

So Says Rector of Seminary of Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM, JAN. 15, 2003 ( Catholics worldwide can offer two irreplaceable services to their fellow believers in the Holy Land: material help, especially for schools, and resumption of pilgrimages.

Father Marun Lahham, rector of the seminary of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, expressed those needs when commenting on the meeting here of European and North American bishops with Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio.

«Much has been done, but much remains to be done,» said Father Lahham.

According to the rector, «schools are a real emergency» for all Catholics in the Holy Land, due to the economic and social crisis caused by the intifada.

«Education allows our young people to construct their future here, and to aspire to a job, a profession, which will enable them to create and support a family,» the priest said. «In fact, there are no alternatives, unless a decision is made to leave the country, something that must be totally avoided.»

«The greatest effort of sister Churches, not just the European and American, must be dedicated to this strategic sector,» he continued. «And, given the words of the bishops who are participating in this meeting, I think that all are in agreement on this point.»

However, this commitment must be corresponded by that of Christians to «return, as pilgrims, to the holy places. It is not just about spiritual support, undeniable and important as it is, but also about material support. The presence of pilgrims will improve the local economy and help many families, not only the Christian, who live from handicrafts and tourism.»

Despite the difficulties, there is no lack of vocations in the Holy Land, Father Lahham said.

«In our major seminary in Jerusalem, whose diocese has some 70,000 Catholics, we have 23 seminarians,» he said. «They will be entrusted with the care and future of Christians in the holy places. However, they need speedy support, as there are, increasingly, fewer Christians.»

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