Richard Szczepanowski
Catholic Standard staff

Christians in the West must become aware of the hardships faced by Christians living in the Holy Land and must work for peace so that a Christian presence remains in the birthplace of Jesus, participants at a recent Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) conference and awards banquet were told.

During last month’s HCEF conference, awards were presented to Cardinal John Foley and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem; Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States; and others for their efforts to promote peace in the Holy Land.

The HCEF presented its Living Stones Solidarity Award to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. The award is given to an institution that “has made a sustained and extraordinary effort to love, support, and stand in solidarity with the Christians in the Holy Land.”

Cardinal Foley, pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and formerly the 23-year president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, accepted the award for the order.

Cardinal Foley said the 25,000 knights worldwide “are truly concerned to see peace in the Holy Land.”

“What Christians do in the Holy Land is exceptional,” Cardinal Foley said. “It is a privilege for us to identify with them in carrying the cross of Christ.”

In accepting the award, the cardinal prayed that in the Holy Land there would be “peace and not only mutual tolerance, but mutual love and respect, among all people who live in that land we are blessed to call holy.”

The day after the order was honored, Cardinal Foley delivered the HCEF’s keynote address at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. He lamented that the security barrier between Israel and the Palestinian Territories is “the most tragic thing I have seen … It is humiliating and distressing.”

“I appreciate the Israeli government’s concern for security,” Cardinal Foley said, “but many of these measures raise serious human rights issues that they refuse to acknowledge and address.”

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