Vatican Might Call a Day of Prayer for Holy Land

Bishops Welcome Patriarch’s Proposal

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2008 ( A World Day of Prayer is being considered to pray for the Holy Land and the shrinking population of Christians in the region, reported a group a bishops.

The prelates, who form a group to coordinate support for the Holy Land, explained the proposal at a press conference Wednesday at the Vatican.

They had just returned from an annual tour of the Holy Places and had met in Rome with the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; the prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri; and the secretary for relations with states at the Vatican Secretariat of State, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

One of the prelates who represented the support-coordination group, Bishop Joan Enric Vives of Urgell, Spain, explained, “The patriarch [of Jerusalem] seeks, and I think it is a good idea, the designation of a World Day of Prayer in the entire Catholic and Christian world for the Holy Land,” and so “this has been asked of the Holy See.”

Under consideration

The decision is still being considered, but Bishop Vives said that it is possible “to begin to have a day of prayer, not only in the moment of the collect prayers for the Holy Places [on Good Friday] but also a day of petitioning peace, in the union of the Church with the mother Church of Jerusalem.”

The prelate said it would be important to have the initiative put into practice in dioceses and parishes. He added that it would be a true sign of solidarity with the Christian population of the Holy Land, which is facing the threat of extinction due to emigration.

Bishop Vives recalled what the patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, told Christians at Christmas: Their presence in the Holy Land is a vocation.

It is “a vocation of the Church to be there in the suffering of the Lord,” Bishop Vives explained. This is something “a little difficult to understand in our secularized society, but it is a reality: Our Lord suffered in Jerusalem and the mother Church of Jerusalem has this suffering.”

A duty

Bishop Vives affirmed that it is a duty to help the Christians of the region, “above all by bringing them support and solidarity,” so that emigration becomes a free decision, not something that is forced, and so that if they want to return to their land, they can.

Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, France, another of the members of the support-coordination group, spoke of his firsthand experience of the emigration phenomenon as well as meeting many young people convinced about their right to stay in the land of their birth.

“This highlights the need to develop the economy so as to have a more secure future,” Bishop Dubost said.

And he pointed out that Christians, who “are the minority of the minority,” have a very extensive vocation: They are called to be a “link between Jews and Muslims,” the prelate said.

The Christians have a great capacity for fulfilling this mission, Bishop Dubost contended, but “this is possible only if justice exists, because many have seen their land occupied, their houses destroyed, and I think that peace needs justice.”

Bishop Vives said the path of supporting the Holy Land is about “solidarity and ecclesial communion,” because the Church in Jerusalem needs the support of the whole Church. He recommended going there on pilgrimages and meeting the actual Christian communities “that are the living body of Jesus.”

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