The Bishops' Coordinating Committee for the Holy Land (Holy Land Coordination) has had this year its annual meeting in Jordan in January. Archbishop Joan Enric Vives Sicilia has been participating in the Coordinating Committee for years on behalf of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), and assures that a bond of friendship has been created with most of the participating bishops and with those of the Holy Land.
The meeting was attended by bishops representing the bishops' conferences of Canada, the United States, England and Wales, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Spain, the Nordic countries, South Africa, Switzerland, Albania, Slovakia and the Anglican Church, as well as delegates from the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) and the Commission of European Bishops' Conferences (COMECE), and communication officers from the bishops' conferences and Catholic organizations related to the Holy Land.
As Pope Francis noted during his visit to Jordan in 2014: "The Christian communities (...) present in this country since apostolic times contribute to the common good of the society of which they are fully a part". Indeed, the bishops have heard "the important role that Christians play in building bridges of hope between communities"and encourage "to the pilgrims from our different countries to come and meet with these Christian communities, and to visit the important holy sites in Jordan."
Omnes has spoken with the Archbishop Joan Enric VivesThe Jordanians' "hospitable love" for refugees from other countries was emphasized.
You claim to have witnessed the efforts of people inspired by the Gospel to defend human dignity and human rights. For example, in supporting those fleeing violence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Can you expand on this idea?
-Jordan was generous to Palestinian refugees after the war with Israel and has been generous to Iraqis and Syrians, as well as to other Middle Eastern peoples who have been displaced there. I don't know if we in the West are aware of the enormous effort of hospitable love that this entails, and of the instability and sometimes persecution that lingers in neighboring countries.
What is the purpose of these meetings of bishops in the Holy Land? In your case, could you share with us some of the main impressions that these meetings, and in particular this year's meeting in Jordan, have left in your heart?
-We talked about the five "pes": prayer, pilgrimage, pressure, presence, presence and someone has added this year, permanence. And in explaining this we say that we go to the Holy Land in a spirit of communion with the Christians who live and suffer there, praying and celebrating the Eucharist with them, which is very much appreciated and mutually reinforcing.
The spirit is that of pilgrims who learn from the Holy Places and let ourselves be filled by the grace of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land which, according to the felicitous expression of Benedict XVI, is "the fifth Gospel" that reveals Jesus Christ. We seek to "put pressure" on the authorities and political leaders of the States involved and at the same time on our own societies and political authorities to contribute to peace and reconciliation of the peoples and religions present there.
It is a matter of being present and emotionally knowing the reality of the Holy Land, so that Christians feel encouraged and accompanied in the presence they make by being the "living stones" of the Holy Land. Finally, it is also important that they persevere in their faith and faithful witness there and the Christians of the world also, at their side, helping them and living the real communion with all of them.
The Lord's baptism and the beginning of his ministry took place in Jordan. How have you seen the Christian communities there? How can we encourage them in their difficulties, and learn from them in any case?
-They are fervent and united communities, which are not afraid to bear witness to their faith, and at the same time are creative and faithful to their Jordanian homeland, to which they contribute as much as other communities. There is unity in the country and the Hashemite dynasty on the throne enjoys the esteem of Jordanian society. We can learn the sense of interfaith coexistence and generosity in caring for the suffering.
Let's talk about peace. In their final communiqué, they referred to the Hashemite Royal Family as peacemakers and promoters of interreligious dialogue, and to the respect for human dignity in Jordan, in contrast to increasing violations against this dignity in other parts of the Holy Land. The Coordinator has encouraged a peace process...
-The Coordinating Committee does not have a political mission, but in the Middle East everything is intertwined. In Jordan there is stability and respect for minorities to create a united society. If we look at the other side of the Jordan, in Israel and Palestine, the bishops defend the internationally advocated position: two states, Israel and Palestine, recognized and living in peace, with stable borders and a status for the holy city for the three great religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But this is difficult to achieve because of instability and disregard for human rights.
These meetings are attended by bishops representing numerous bishops' conferences, as well as those in charge of communications for these conferences and Catholic organizations that work and collaborate in the Holy Land. What role can the media play in relation to the Holy Land?
-If we do not succeed in communicating what we have experienced there and the situation of Christians in the various countries of the region, we will not be able to do so. Holy Land we will not achieve an essential element for the Coordinating Committee. Here lies the importance of the media, which must overcome certain informative clichés. We must refine the communication of what is happening there and provide true information with criteria of accuracy, timeliness, relevance and comprehensibility. Living communion requires us to be vigilant of what is happening in those lands.
Any message of encouragement you wish to send now that you have returned from the Holy Land.
-To thank the Christian communities for their tenacity throughout a glorious and martyrial history to remain in the Holy Land and save the holy places and relevant to the Holy Scriptures for all Christians.