For HCEF volunteers, Patriarch Twal’s visit means that more support is on its way. People are paying attention to HCEF’s activities like never before, and the blessing and support of H.B. Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, makes all Christians — not only Catholics — listen.

As supporters of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) are well aware, last week marked history as His Beatitude Fouad Twal joined HCEF for a series of events around Washington, DC, in his inaugural visit to the United States as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. But beyond the symbolic significance and inspiration that accompanied this visit, some might ask, what does Patriarch Twal’s visit mean for HCEF’s volunteers? What does it mean for Christians in the Holy Land? Finally, what does it mean as HCEF marks its 10th Anniversary in October with the 10th International Conference?

For HCEF volunteers, Patriarch Twal’s visit means that more support is on its way. People are paying attention to HCEF’s activities like never before, and the blessing and support of H.B. Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, makes all Christians — not only Catholics — listen.

Following the ceremonial welcoming luncheon that HCEF hosted at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center on August 11, Patriarch Twal convened with HCEF’s Board of Directors and staff at HCEF’s Bethesda offices. After a brief tour, Patriarch Twal sat with HCEF’s staff and Board of Directors, and expressed his deep appreciation for HCEF’s efforts.

"The work you all are doing is truly blessed work," he told those present, shortly before blessing HCEF’s offices. He then went on to urge HCEF to develop a campaign to promote the Latin Patriarchate as a willing partner across all denominations that support Christians in the Holy Land. "Do not leave me alone," Patriarch Twal emphasized, reiterating a message he delivered to hundreds of people from multiple faiths over the previous days. "In doing so," he continued, "Christians in America should work with all churches." He then commended HCEF for its ecumenical approach in assisting Holy Land Christians.

Patriarch Twal
Patriarch Twal prays with HCEF

Specifically, there were two areas where Patriarch Twal stressed his blessing and support: the Child Sponsorship Program and the Holy Land Living Stones Pilgrimage, two programs administered by HCEF that involve active U.S.-based volunteers.

"The Church is here for these programs," His Beatitude said, speaking for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which encompasses over 67 parishes in Palestine, Jordan, Israel and Cyprus. Patriarch Twal gave special emphasis to the Child Sponsorship Program, indicating the importance of education to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and its 42 schools with 20,000 pupils.

On Holy Land Pilgrimage, Patriarch Twal emphasized the need to employ activities centered on interfaith dialogue and solidarity. He lent his support to HCEF Pilgrimages, saying, "You have the Church. Use our parishes, priests and bishops in your efforts to educate Americans through Pilgrimage. We must encourage the Protestants, the Catholics and the Orthodox to show their support to the Holy Land through pilgrimage."

With the Patriarch’s blessing and offer of the full support of the Patriarchate in hand, HCEF will be able to attract more pilgrims for its Living Stones Pilgrimages and additional sponsors for its Child Sponsorship Program, resulting in broader support and public awareness about Christians in the Holy Land.

The Patriarch’s assistance will pave the way for a more personal experience for pilgrims to the Holy Land, and the cross that their brothers and sisters in this region bear every day. Future pilgrims will return home with a greater determination to educate their parishes, and expanded opportunities to help Christians in the Holy Land like never before — to be their Simon of Cyrene. With that, HCEF heeded Patriarch Twal’s advise to develop a campaign with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem that encourages Christians of every denomination to make pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Moreover, Patriarch Twal’s hand will enhance the dividends of child sponsorship, thus improving the personal outlook and security of children in the Holy Land, and that of the Christian schools they attend. This commitment from the Latin Patriarch, combined with HCEF’s recently upgraded capacities in communications, staff and a worldwide volunteer network, will enhance the Child Sponsorship Program’s role in education and interfaith understanding.

As testament to his devotion to all efforts to support Holy Land Christians, Patriarch Twal’s concluded his meeting with HCEF on a very special note, accepting HCEF’s offer to chair its Board of Advisors. "I will assume this duty, bless you," he said, accepting the invitation from HCEF President/CEO, Sir Rateb Rabie.

Sir Rateb Rabie and Patriarch Twal
HCEF President/CEO Rabie and Patriarch Twal

According to Sir Rateb, "Patriarch Twal’s visit gave us the kind of direction, moral guidance and hope that we need to deliver on our mission ‘to replace despair with hope, fear with security, and humiliation with human dignity.’ When the ceremonies were over, and we spoke with His Beatitude heart-to-heart, our hopes turned into reality."

Patriarch Twal did not leave Washington, DC, without imparting his blessing on the occasion of HCEF’s 10th international Conference, which takes place on October 24-25, 2008, and marks HCEF’s 10th Anniversary. In parting Patriarch Twal said: "After ten years of work, activity and mission, we are very grateful for what you have done, and what you will continue to do in the future. In October, unfortunately, I cannot be with you, but my predecessor Patriarch Sabbah [Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem] will come to be with you as a sign of our gratitude and prayer for your success.

"I truly wish you the best on this great occasion of ten years, in which you have had many wonderful results, thanks be to God. At the same time, you have had to make many sacrifices. But it is good to have these from time to time, as it reminds you of past examples and how we view our best aspects. Thank God for these lessons, as it makes us see how we can best do our work. You, the HCEF, have our support. You have our benediction. You and your families and your volunteers. May God bless you."

Helpful Links About HCEF’s 10th International Conference:

Be a Conference Sponsor

Conference Registration

2008 Award Recipients

Hotel Accommodations

Endorsement Letters

Place an Ad

Donate a Gift to the Silent Auction