WASHINGTON, DC – His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, (AMS), (left in photo) returned today from the Holy Land, where he spent six days with more than a dozen brother bishops from Europe, South Africa, and Canada. Together, they visited Christian communities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The bishops made the journey as part of the “Holy Land Coordination,” an annual pilgrimage by prelates from the three continents. The pilgrimage was started in 1998 as a way of showing prayerful solidarity with Christians living in the tense region, where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam maintain an uneasy co-existence, and advocating for a “just peace.” Archbishop Broglio participated this year in his role as Chairman of the International Peace and Justice Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
This year, the visiting bishops focused on Christians in Israel: challenges and opportunities. Attention was also paid to a controversial law passed by the Israeli legislature in July, defining Israel as “the Nation-State of the Jewish people.” In their final communique, the bishops wrote, “Local Christian leaders have warned that this creates a ‘constitutional and legal basis for discrimination’ against minorities, undermining the ideals of equality, justice and democracy. We stand with Israel’s Christians and all those challenging discrimination, in support of their call to protect the country’s pluralism.” The bishops also noted a deterioration in living conditions throughout the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories due to severe cuts in humanitarian aid by the U.S. government: “Healthcare, education and other basic services for refugees are being increasingly threatened, exacerbating the ongoing violations of their fundamental human dignity. This cannot be ignored or tolerated.”
The visiting bishops called on their own governments to fill funding gaps now faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). They further called on their governments to “redouble” efforts “towards a diplomatic solution, with two democratic sovereign states of Israel and Palestine existing in peace.” Professing their belief in the hope of the Resurrection, the bishops returned to their home countries echoing the words of Pope Francis: “Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts!” The bishops expressed admiration for the enduring hope of Holy Land Christians, and they committed themselves through “prayer, pilgrimage and practical solidarity, to helping keep that hope alive.” (View full text of communique here.)
Commenting on the pilgrimage, Archbishop Broglio said: “The days in the Holy Land have been a time of blessing and grace. Praying with my brother bishops, priests, and the lay people who accompanied the Coordination and visiting our fellow Christians and hearing more about their reality provided a rich opportunity for solidarity and increased understanding. I give thanks for these extraordinary days.”