(terrasanta) “We strongly encourage pilgrims to come to the Holy Land, to walk in the places where Christ himself walked, to share with our communities the courageous testimony of faith, to touch with their hands our dream of peace, in which they too will also certainly play a leading role.” Bishop Willam Shomali, vicar of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Chairman of the Pilgrimage Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Holy land, also added his voice to the recent appeal by the Father Custos, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
Visiting the Holy Land also means giving economic help to the local Christians who work in hospitality for pilgrims. Unfortunately, in the long term, the fall in the number of arrivals is translated into an absence of income, increased unemployment and the temptation, for many Arab Christians, to leave the Middle East and seek fortune elsewhere. This puts the Christian presence in the Land where Christianity was born at serious risk.
Bishop Shomali has sent Terrasanta.net a message in which he emphasizes that, despite everything, it is still possible to travel to the Holy Land and there are many pilgrims who are not discouraged and whose example can be followed. Here are the bishop’s words : “The Holy Land, since times immemorial, has been a destination of pilgrimage, even in situations of greater difficulty than the present. Despite some hotbeds of violence that explode in the Middle East and in the Holy Land, 60 percent of the presences of pilgrims compared to last year has been recorded and the figure is tending to increase.”
“Pilgrims,” notes bishop Shomali, “come because they are fraternally and warmly welcomed by the Christians, Muslims and Jews, who in this troubled region of the world consider them real “bridges of peace”. The main benefit that they draw from visiting the holy places is the spiritual enrichment, the results of which are certainly the growth of personal faith, the rediscovery of the Bible in the field and the profound individual and community transformation.”
Therefore, the bishop concludes, “we strongly encourage pilgrims to come to the Holy Land, to walk in the places where Christ himself walked, to share with our community the courageous testimony of faith, to touch with their hands our dream of Peace, in which they too will certainly also play a leading role. Nazareth, Tiberias, Jerusalem and Bethlehem are safe places, The fire in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves in Tabgha remains an exceptional case and was publicly condemned by all the local religious bodies.”