JERUSALEM – On the 31st of August, 2018, his Excellency, Mgr. Jose Domingo Ulloa Medndieta and Mr. Victor Chang, Executive Secretary of WYD in Panama paid a three-day visit to Caritas Jerusalem in order to follow up with the Rosaries Project that Caritas is implementing in the Bethlehem Governorate in partnership with Mgr. Peter Bürcher and the Association of Saint Jean-Marie.
“When I think that these olive wood rosaries from Bethlehem will be in one million homes around the world I thank God that I’m so lucky to be working on this project” said Tahrir, one of the 300 people in the Bethlehem area employed to make 1.5 million olive wood rosaries that Pope Francis will give to the youth at World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama. “I believe that this project is blessed and will succeed” said Archbishop Ulloa. Some women told him that the money they earn is enabling them to go to university, others talked about the benefits of working flexible hours that enables them to socialize and earn money while caring for small children or sick relatives.
The Archbishop visited some of the 21 workshops in Bethlehem to see first-hand the different stages in producing a rosary from slicing the olive wood (pieces pruned from olive trees in the West Bank in accordance with good husbandry) to the production of the beads, the polishing, the threading, the packing of each finished rosary into cellophane with a picture of Pope Francis, and the final counting and packing the rosaries into cartons to be shipped to Panama. The Archbishop then met Mgr. Marco Fornica, chargé d’affairesa.i. in the Apostolic Delegation. He thanked them for their interest and cooperation with Caritas Jerusalem in assisting with the shipments of the rosaries to Panama.
524,000 rosaries are currently on the high seas en route to Panama. A second consignment is due to leave Bethlehem on November 1st. George Handal, Caritas Financial Manager responsible for overseeing the project, had worked in the olive wood business while a student. He explained to the Archbishop: “This project is answering one of the core values of Caritas Jerusalem, which is to create jobs for the poor. It is not a business and does not make profit. It is giving employment to about 300 people in the Bethlehem area.” During his visit Archbishop Ulloa met Fr Ibrahim Shomali, Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate, to discuss the project and the plan to have Palestinian youth speak in Arabic to the WYD assembly about their faith as Palestinian Christian. Fr Ibrahim told the Archbishop “We love this project that is giving employment, not hand-outs to our people. Caritas is giving them dignity and self-respect. It is a great project that we hope will continue in some way after WYD.” He also said how important it is, and a great opportunity, to have the youth speak about their faith in Arabic to let the WYD assembly and the world know that there are local Arabic-speaking Christians in the Holy Land. He said “So all in Panama and the wider world will hear about Jerusalem and Palestinian Christians.” Caritas Jerusalem also arranged a meeting with The Archbishop and Fr Bashar Fawadleh, Chaplain to Christian youth in Palestine and some young adults who will go to WYD in Panama. They discussed possibilities for the youth to be involved in various activities, if possible when Pope Francis will be there.
The young people explained the different components and activities of the Patriarchate Youth Organization and their commitment to volunteering and contributing to the Church. Caritas Jerusalem would like to thank all the partners and donors near and far who have donated to this wonderful project which allows people to make a living in dignity.
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem