Church in Italy Urges Pilgrimages to the Holy Land

To Support Region’s Christian Communities

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ROME, MAY 1, 2003 ( The Italian bishops’ conference appealed to ecclesial communities to renew pilgrimages to the Holy Places, and urged businessmen, artisans and labor unions to initiate programs of cooperation with Christians there.

Bishop Giuseppe Betori, secretary-general of the episcopal conference, made the appeals at the conclusion of the Italian prelates’ pilgrimage of solidarity to the Holy Land, from April 22-25.

Over the past five years, the Italian bishops’ conference has allocated almost 5 million euros ($5.5 million) to fund programs of assistance, education and formation in the Holy Land. The money came from a 0.8% income tax that Italians may allocate to the Catholic Church.

The prelates extended an invitation “to pilgrims, whom the war has kept away, to return to the land of Jesus” and “in this way support the local Christians, who are faced with a thousand difficulties,” Bishop Betori said.

At the end of the closing Mass in the Basilica of Gethsemane, concelebrated by Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem and the Italian bishops, the conference secretary-general said that the situation in the Holy Land has been normalized.

He suggested: “It would be desirable that all dioceses organize a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the forthcoming months. … Christians of the Holy Land represent all of us; we cannot leave them alone.”

“Thank you for coming to pray with us for Jerusalem,” said Patriarch Sabbah during his homily. “We support you with our prayer, because the mother Church of Jerusalem prays for all the Churches of the world.”

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