Bethlehem University, Bethlehem – Palestine
A Sign of Hope for Students from Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gaza, Hebron, Qubebeh, and Amman, Jordan
Brother Peter Bray, FSC, Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University, and Father Jamal Khader, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, will lead a delegation of twelve (12) Christian and Muslim faculty, staff and students from Bethlehem University, the only Catholic university in the Holy Land, to meet with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on Monday, 11 May for the inter-religious dialogue gathering to be held at Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem.
“We are encouraged by the Pope’s visit and appreciative of his support for the unique educational mission of Bethlehem University in providing quality higher education to the people of Palestine for more than 35 years. This is a wonderful opportunity for our Christian and Muslim students and faculty to welcome His Holiness on this pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” said Brother Peter.
Bethlehem University is the first Vatican-sponsored Catholic university in the Holy Land and the first university established in Palestine. “Our students and faculty, daily involved in building relationships among Christians and Muslims, are encouraged by the commitment of the Church to fostering shared values and inter-religious dialogue. Together we seek justice and peace in this land. His Holiness comes to us as a man of God, a man of prayer, our beloved Pastor,” said Father Jamal.
Father David Neuhaus, Religious Studies faculty member at Bethlehem University, noted that “the Pope comes into the heart of a troubled area to show the Church’s face as a promoter of justice, of peace and most importantly, of pardon and compassion. We need this visit.”
Noting that some people from Gaza received special permission from the Israeli military and government to come to Bethlehem to meet His Holiness, Brother Robert Smith, FSC, Academic Vice President, commented that “before the year 2000 we had some 438 students and graduates of Bethlehem University coming from Gaza. There is a particular hopefulness that the Pope’s visit will provide an opportunity for the Israeli military and government to once again give permission for students from Gaza to return to study at Bethlehem University.”
As a center for the advancement, sharing and use of knowledge, Bethlehem University currently serves 3,000 students. Since its founding 35 years ago, Bethlehem University has sought to promote inter-religious dialogue, justice and peace in preparing leaders for the future Palestinian state. More than 10,800 graduates serve the Church and all people of the Holy Land as teachers, civil society and business leaders, parents, nurses, scientists, Church-workers, heads of hospitals, schools, and NGOs.