In his inaugural visit to the United States as the newly-installed Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal convened with religious leaders, ambassadors, and civic and organizational leaders in a series of events around the Washington, DC, area.
Washington, DC, 08/13/08 — This week, a small piece of history was made for the future of the Holy Land’s Christian community. In his inaugural visit to the United States as the newly-installed Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal convened with religious leaders, ambassadors, and civic and organizational leaders in a series of events around the Washington, DC, area. The events included a Sunday Mass in Washington attended by hundreds, a luncheon with the Arab Christian community at the Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD, and a ceremonial welcoming luncheon at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center near Catholic University on Monday. Many attendants said they left with a renewed faith in the future of the Holy Land.
"This occasion brings us a new hope and vision for peace in the Holy Land," said Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, DC, in his closing remarks at the Pope John Paul II Center’s welcoming luncheon on Monday, which was held under his auspices. Archbishop Wuerl stated that gatherings like Monday’s were invaluable for all people of faith, and offered to host annual Holy Land Luncheons under his auspices in the future.
Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center last Monday
Patriarch Twal’s message on Monday brought a fresh perspective on the Holy Land. In a private meeting with local and national Catholic media, Patriarch Twal was asked what he thought was needed for peace in the Holy Land. He replied that beyond the oft-cited issues of borders, Palestinian refugees and the issue of Jerusalem, what was most needed was, quite simply, "good will" — suggesting an urgency in moral direction.
Patriarch Twal speaks with reporters at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center last Monday
Shortly before this, Patriarch Twal told the nearly 100 attendants at the John Paul II Center welcome luncheon that they needed to "to keep faith," stating that the vision he represented was one of "coexistence with the gospel of love, reconciliation, and to be a bridge, wherever possible between the Muslim and Jewish majority" in the Holy Land.
Left to right: Fr. Shawki Baterian General Administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; Sir Rateb Rabie, President/CEO of HCEF; Most Rev. Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio; H.B. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; Fr. Steven Boguslawski, Executive Director of Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
In the event’s opening remarks, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) President/CEO Sir Rateb Rabie said, "[A]s I look around the faces in this room, and as I have accompanied His Beatitude (Patriarch Twal) on this visit and previous visits, I am reminded that, together, we will achieve hope, dignity and peace for all the people in the Holy Land."
Sir Rabie called Monday’s gathering "historic," not only because this was Patriarch Twal’s inaugural visit to the United States as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, but because of the caliber of attendants at the Pope John Paul II Center, which included over 30 heads of churches, secular organizations and embassies, from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. The event began with a welcoming by Archbishop Wuerl, followed by opening remarks by Sir Rabie. The invocation was delivered by Most Reverend (Auxiliary) Bishop Madden of Baltimore, then comments were given by Most Reverend Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, who flew in and out that day from Orlando, FL. Before he took the podium, Patriarch Twal was introduced by Most Reverend Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States (or ambassador of the Vatican). Following some closing remarks by Archbishop Wuerl, the luncheon attendants adjourned to the Pope John Paul II Center’s exhibit, titled, Holy Land Arab Christians: Faith and Culture, an arts and crafts exhibit sponsored by HCEF.
Patriarch Twal and Archbishop Wuerl at the Holy Land Arab Christians exhibit
Monday’s luncheon was one of several festivities organized for the Patriarch by HCEF during his three-day U.S. visit. The events began on Sunday, when Latin Patriarch Twal celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC, along with Rev. Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, St. Matthew’s Rector. Events continued into that day as the Patriarch joined an HCEF-sponsored Ecumenical Welcome Luncheon with the Arab Christian Community at Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD. Hundreds attended Sunday’s Mass, and Saints Peter and Paul’s banquet hall was abuzz with over one hundred Arab Christian families from multiple denominations.
Patriarch Twal meets Arab Christian families at Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church
Patriarch Twal’s message mirrored the mission and purpose of HCEF "to sustain the presence of Arab Christians in the Holy Land, to contribute to their well-being, and to develop solidarity between them and their fellow Christians elsewhere in the world."
At Saints Peter and Paul’s, Patriarch Twal urged the Arab Christians in attendance not to lose sight of their brethren in the Holy Land, emphasizing its sacredness and permanence in saying, "there is no other place with such significance." His symbolic appeal to Arab Christians, asking them, "Do not leave us alone," brought tears to the eyes of some attendants. And on Monday, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem spoke of the hardships faced by Holy Land Christians, telling guests at the John Paul II Center, "If God wanted us to live together in the Holy Land, surely it is not that we should make war, but rather that we should build the land and keep it holy — a place of prayer for all, Jews, Muslims and Christians."
Patriarch Twal also addressed what was most needed by Christians and their institutions in the Holy Land. "We must enhance our capacity to minister to various countries, with diverse cultural, social, economic and political conditions and with many borders," he told Monday’s gathering. "We need to increase our staff, our offices and our resources, human as well as financial. Peace remains our major need, for if, and once, we have permanent peace based on justice, then we will flourish, and most of our financial burden will vanish. The ongoing injustice and the lack of peace are sources of frustration and even desperation."
Patriarch Twal was accompanied on this visit by Fr. Shawki Baterian, the General Administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. On Tuesday, HCEF bid farewell to Patriarch Twal and Fr. Baterian as they returned to the Holy Land. HCEF was honored to welcome Patriarch Twal on his first visit to the United States as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and is grateful for the bonds of solidarity that continue to grow in their wake.
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