HOLY LAND – From March 4th till March 11th, 2023, the Holy Land Commission of the Grand Magisterium of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre came to the Holy Land for a tour of the diocese, led by Sami El-Yousef, CEO of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
This year’s committee included Prof. Bart McGettrick, president of the Commission, Dr. Detlef Brümmer, honorary governor, and Mr. Tim Milner, President of JIT Powder Coating Company, all three being Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The Commission comes regularly to the Holy Land to overlook the progress of the Latin Patriarchate’s funded projects as well as to know which future projects need to be prioritized.
During this visit, the Knights got to meet with His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the Patriarchate’s staff in charge of the various projects. The Knights were able to discuss with them the current and future projects; the roles and responsibilities to be played in their fruition; and the implementation of a strategic financial plan. “These meetings are fundamental for the Order to address the real needs of the Christians in the Holy Land,” said Prof. McGettrick. “Within the Patriarchate, there is a sense of a well-structured, professional way of working that should give confidence to all who have an interest in the Holy Land.” On his side, Mr. Milner said that “the workmanship is excellent: all projects are more than just functional, each have their own personal touch. The Latin Patriarchate project staff deserves special recognition for how effective their work is.”
During their stay in Jerusalem, the Knights got to learn more about the work of the Social Department of the Patriarchate and visit a couple of homes in the Old City who receive humanitarian aid and support. “I was overwhelmed with the heartfelt gratitude shown to us by every one of the people we visited. The people in the Old City were so kind. They all showed us great hospitality! It was humbling to see their generosity toward us. It was clear that help was needed and even more clear that each person is benefiting from the aid they receive to the fullest,” said Mr. Milner, who illustrated the significant role humanitarian aid plays in the life of others, and its priority for the Order. “This funding is critical for the survival of the people and their families. The projects of the Patriarchate are thought through with care and attention to the needs of the Christian community,” Prof. McGettrick added.
On March 7th, the Commission visited the monastery of Deir Rafat, guided by the Bethlehem sisters who reside and serve there. Later that day, they got to meet Mgr Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio for the Holy Land. “I witnessed great faith in those we visited in the religious communities. They have joyfully chosen a mission of service to not just the followers of Jesus, but to any in need. This is the essence of our call to God,” Mr. Milner commented. They also visited the Latin parish in Taybeh and the Beit Afram retirement home, as well as the Rosary Sisters who serve in the village. “To see such wonderful examples of faith inspires me in my role within the Order’s Holy Land Commission,” Mr. Milner added.
The next day, Fr. Remon Haddad, director of the Catechetical office of the Latin Patriarchate, gave the Knights a tour of Aboud’s convent, where they were able to witness the accomplishment of two funded projects of the Patriarchate.
Because the Latin Patriarchate schools are regarded with high importance for the Order, as they care to improve the quality of education, the Knights met Fr. Yacoub Rafidi, Director of the Patriarchate Schools in Palestine, Mrs. Abeer Hanna, CEO, and a few of the school principles. They were able to witness firsthand the improvements made to the schools and also to learn more about the areas that need more attention and funding for future projects. “There was a general lift in the quality of the schools. Of course, it is an ongoing process, as, just like in many other countries, the cost of building materials and labor has risen significantly. Yet despite this, the quality of work has been outstanding,” Prof. McGettrick reflected.
The Knights meeting the students of a Patriarchate school
“There is a tremendous commitment by all to education; something that I was able to see almost immediately by stepping onto the school grounds”, Mr. Milner expressed. I think the one area that needs special attention is the school facilities. While some classrooms have been improved with teaching material, there are still far too many classrooms that need attention. I think this is something that the members of the Order may need to consider in the future.”
At the end of their stay, they visited Bethlehem and Beit Jala, where they met with the Vice Chanceller of Bethlehem University, Fr. Peter Bray, fsc, and visited the Latin Patriarchate Seminary and the school in Beit Jala. They also oversaw two ongoing projects to be accomplished throughout this year.
At the Latin Patriarchate Seminary of Beit Jala
Prof. McGettrick made a remark, saying that “these developments in education, pastoral care, and humanitarian aid have been significant and have given the Christian communities a sound basis for their continuing existence. In the field of humanitarian aid, there is remarkable work being undertaken. This is clearly adding to the quality of life of families, especially the elderly and the sick.”
They also met with an English Knight, Mr. Rowland Pickering, and Mgr Kamal Bathish, bishop emeritus, who resides at Beit Afram elderly house
This visit was Mr. Milner’s first. “As a member of the Order, we get regular, rather broad updates on the activities of the Latin Patriarchate. We see pictures of kids in school and parish gatherings taken by our members on pilgrimage, photos of some of the projects completed thanks to our donations. But until this visit, I had no idea how many aspects of daily life the Latin Patriarchate touches! The work with the refugees, the outreach to migrants and the humanitarian aid to the poor… Photos simply do not convey these needs, nor the successful ways the Latin Patriarchate attempts to meet them.”