By Katie Ascough - 14 December, 2019
According to the statement from the Winter 2019 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference which took place at the beginning of December in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor and Bishop Alan McGuckian, SJ, of Raphoe will both travel to the Holy Land next month.
They will partake in the annual pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel which is part of the ‘Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination’ group. By mandate from the Holy See, the group gathers in the Holy Land every January to focus on prayer, pilgrimage and persuasion. In 2020 the trip is scheduled for 11–16 January.
The aim of the pilgrimage is to act in solidarity with the Christian community which experiences intense political and socio-economic pressure in the Holy Land. The group will reiterate this support in person during its visit to communities in Palestine, including Gaza.
The chair of the group is Bishop Declan Lang of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Representatives from other international bishops’ conferences on the group include Germany, South Africa, USA, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Canada, Switzerland, Scotland and Portugal. A Church of England bishop also travels as a member of the group.
According to a statement on the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference website, the focus of the trip last year was on Christians who live in the state of Israel:
“The Holy Land Coordination stands in solidarity with all Christians in Israel and Palestine. Our ongoing advocacy for a just peace is informed by an annual pilgrimage to meet with our sisters and brothers, listen to them, and witness the challenges they face…
“Throughout our visit we have experienced how there are Israeli citizens from many different backgrounds who coexist and work together for the Common Good of their society. We recognise that Israel was founded on the stated principles of equality between all its citizens. This urgently needs to become the lived reality.
“Israel’s Christians wish to live as full citizens, with their rights recognised in a plural and democratic society…[but] many Christians find themselves systematically discriminated against and marginalised,” the statement goes on.