JAFFA-TEL AVIV –The Christian community in the Holy Land expands, officially: so attests the first pastoral visit by the Patriarch of Jerusalem to Christian migrants in southern Tel Aviv. On Saturday, April 26, 2014, an important meeting for the Hebrew speaking community which needs the Church’s support and which supports the Church in return by its faith and influence.
The opportunity to practice the faith has not always been easy for all Filipino, Sri Lankan, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian, Sudanese, and all the people who have recently arrived in Israel and south of Tel Aviv to find work or escape authoritarian political regimes. About three months ago, an air-raid shelter acted as a chapel, rented at exorbitant prices, and entirely financed by migrants who, despite their poverty, invest everything they can in order to live their faith.
Thanks to the help of generous donors, a home was acquired by the Pastoral Care of Migrants Ministry of the Diocese. After much necessary work, the center welcomes each Saturday and Sunday all the children en masse to the Sacred Liturgy of the Eucharist who are enrolled in catechism classes to prepare for the sacraments. The center also serves as home to two religious sisters who live among migrants, visit and share their lives. Located in the heart of a poor neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv, the center is not yet in its final location. For Father David Neuhaus, Head of Pastoral Care of Migrants, “the center will move the day the area becomes a middle-class neighborhood. Because we necessarily live among people that we welcome.
The “Divine Mercy” community which cares for the center has chosen to name the center “Our Lady Woman of Valor” (for more details, click here), represented in an iconographic style painting, made especially for the chapel. The center is not a parish, but the large number of Christian migrants who participate there actually occupy an essential place in the life of the diocese: indeed all intend to stay in the country for several years and have children who are part of the country. They obviously transform the sociology of the diocese and reinforce the weight of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community.
Since the birth of the community in 2009, it became imperative that they receive the pastoral visit of Patriarch Fouad Twal, whose jurisdiction extends over all Latin Catholics of Jordan, Palestine, Cyprus and Israel. The community is a very enthusiastic crowd, compressed in the small chapel of the center, which hosted its pastor, and with him the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and Bishop Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem.
“You are welcome in your center, yours,” insisted the Patriarch several times in his homily. “I encourage the different communities of our Patriarchate to develop a true sense of unity in diversity. Do not stand independent of the others. Gather to share with each other your wealth of religious, social and cultural life. It is most important to create a genuine unity.”
He continued giving support to those who are “uncertain of time-length of their stay, and who are vulnerable to unjust treatment, facing the possibility of expulsion. With them, we, as Church, raise our voice publicly and effectively to ensure the full recognition of their rights as persons and to see that they are treated fairly.”
After Mass, a colossal feast was served to all participants. Dishes from everywhere on the color-clothed tables. A time of music and dance followed to crown this visit during which the joy of community, the sense of home, and love of the Church impressed the distinguished guests, bishops, priests and others.
Pierre Loup de Raucourt