Why Pilgrims are Crucial for Christians in Holy Land

The Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem says that the resumption of pilgrimages to the Holy Land is crucial to ending the exodus of Christians.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi explained the situation in the Holy Land to a group of Spanish journalists who were inJerusalem on an institutional pilgrimage.

“Christians in the Holy Land are a small minority, only 2% of the population,” he said. “They feel themselves a minority in the face of the great Jewish majority and the great Muslim majority.”

“At the start of the second Intifada, Jews world-wide organized themselves to help the Jews who are here,” the Archbishop said. “The Muslims of the Gulf and other parts of the world organized themselves to help the Muslims who are here. The Christians disappeared, and the few Christians who remained had the impression of being abandoned by the rest of their brothers.”

“Material aid came from many other parts of the world, with which it was possible to help the schools to survive, and medical centers to continue to provide their services, but something was lacking: the presence of Christians,” he added.

“Look, I am not afraid for the Holy Places,” the Apostolic delegate continued. “To say it in a rather brutal way, they bring too much money to the country and they will be respected. But these holy places will be living places, which help one to live, while there is a community around them that believes, loves and hopes. Without that community, the holy places would be cold museums, and no longer places of life.”

“Pilgrimages are the most complete way to help the local Christians, the Mother Church of Jerusalem and of the Holy Land,” he said.

“In the first place, it is a spiritual, psychological and human help,” the prelate said. “Christians here look at pilgrims much more than the latter look at them, and this presence of pilgrims makes them say: Here are a few, but look how many brothers and sisters from many parts of the world come here. We are all part of a great family, the family of Disciples of Christ. It is a moral, human help of the first order.”

“In addition to this,” he added, “there is also the material help, because the majority of Christians of the Holy Landhave specialized in the service of pilgrims: transport, guides, hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, etc. And when there are pilgrims, there is also help for local Christian families.”

Reprinted with permission

Zenit-2 November 2004