The heads of the Catholic churches in the Holy Land met on March 10 and 11 in Jerusalem to discuss the current news of the region as well as the challenges and issues facing their churches and countries.

Our semi-annual plenary was held at the Franciscan Convent of Jerusalem on March 10 and 11, 2015 with the participation of the Ordinaries from Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus. We discussed matters and issues proposed in the program: the canonization of our two Blessed Arab Palestinian, the Catholic schools, the family and the forthcoming Synod in October, and humanitarian aid.

  1. We express our joy for the upcoming canonization of Blessed Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, foundress of the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters and Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, foundress of the Carmel of Bethlehem. The fact that both have walked the path of holiness in the particular context of our country inspires us to imitate their virtues, to live their faith and to seek their intercession for peace in the Holy Land and the Middle East. We encourage many of our faithful to attend the canonization in Rome on May 17, and the many local events and celebrations preceding and following the canonization. We also wish that more initiatives be created in order to raise awareness and better understanding of the spirituality of our two saints.
  2. In addition to excellent academic and human formation and development, our schools should continue to offer religious education to all our students. It is our duty and their inalienable right. In Palestine, we believe in the need to improve the economic situation and status of our teachers and to establish a pension fund for them. We are concerned about the future of our schools in Israel because of the reduction in subsidies from the Ministry of Education. We invite to continue the dialogue with the Ministry to resolve the issue of subsidies and the involvement of parents of the students with the financial support for the schools, with the belief that the purpose of our schools is not for profit but excellence in education.
  3. The next Synod on “The Role and Mission of the Family in the Contemporary World” will be held in Rome in October. We had discussions and exchange of ideas about the challenges faced by the families of our diocese. We also stressed the need to improve marriage preparations and continuing faith formation for couples. Furthermore, we expect many fruits from the upcoming Synod especially the deepening of the question of the marriage nullity to render it more flexible without touching its principle of unity and indissolubility.
  4. We also thought of the situation of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan who are living in difficult conditions and are losing hope of returning to their countries. We thank Caritas Jordan and other humanitarian agencies for the support they have offered. The resources of these agencies, including Caritas, have progressively diminished with the worsening situation and the hope of finding a host country, slowly fading.   We invite the international community and the United Nations to intervene in alleviating the desolation of the refugees in their desperate situation. We also make an urgent appeal for the reconstruction of Gaza, to help the thousands of families left homeless after the last conflict.

The Church has also expressed concern for the Asian and African migrants living in precarious situations: exploitation, discrimination, and lack of basic rights. The Church is looking at providing assistance for the sick and day care for babies and children whose mothers work during the day.

The meetings concluded with a concelebrated Mass at Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center to celebrate the second anniversary of the election of the Pope Francis. May the Lord protect him.

We wish our faithful a good journey towards Easter, the feast of our salvation, and for all the spiritual gains from our Lenten penance and especially in the Risen Christ!