The center is the latest contribution from the international group of bishops and Church leaders known as the Holy Land Cooperation, which meets each January in the Middle East with the ongoing pledge of showing Christians in the land of Jesus’ birth that the universal Church is supporting them.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, England, is currently in the Holy Land and on Sunday, he opened the Nablus youth center. Faithful of the archdiocese and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre are jointly funding the center.
The complex was built next to the parish church of St. Justin in Rafidia, a northern suburb of Nablus. St. Justin is twinned with St. Oswald and St. Cecilia in Liverpool.
Father Johnny Abu-Khalil, the parish priest of St. Justin, welcomed representatives of the Holy Land Coordination.
“We have two bishops: the Patriarch Archbishop Faoud Twal and Archbishop Patrick Kelly,” Father Abu-Khalil said. “This youth center is an important step in halting emigration and will help young people stay in Palestine. It is an exemplary project, offering a model of cooperation that should be duplicated across the Palestinian territories. It is the only youth center in the area and offers hope for our young people; for the future.
“As the mayor of Nablus says: Speak not of Christian or Muslim communities. Speak of Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Nablus. We are proud that there is a united Nablus.”
Coming together around beauty
The Liverpool Archdiocese donated £50,000 (almost $78,000), which was matched by an equal gift from the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. The center was thus able to be created out of crumbling outbuildings.
Archbishop Kelly said to the assembled faithful, from young children to a 92-year-old parishioner: “It is important not just to surround yourselves by things you can use, but also by things that are beautiful, like this center. Liverpool Cathedral is often used by television because of its beauty and it is because of its beauty that we can spread the Good News of the Gospel. Beauty is where everything comes together.”
The prelate went on to speak of Jesus as a bridge-builder.
“Jesus is not distant,” he said. “The Word becomes flesh and lives among us. He is close to us — to the families of those killed in the U.S., to those in Iraq and Egypt. But we must go further. Jesus did not build a wall. He built a bridge. He tells us: I will go into the heart of those who did wicked things. I will not condemn. I will go to them.
“Why are we, as bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, here? We are here to be with you in solidarity, but also to encourage you to build bridges; to unite all as we are one family. We all bring our sorrows, but we can transform them. Near here Jesus met the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s Well. There he said he was not the savior of this land. He is the Savior of the world. You, the people of St. Justin, carry that message. Baptism makes us one family, bringing light to what is dark.”