- MAP Travel
The Irish Catholic, September 15 2016
by Michael Kelly
Irish News - Show solidarity with hard-pressed Christians of Bethlehem, Primate urges
Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun
Michael Kelly in Bethlehem
Archbishop Eamon Martin has appealed to Irish Catholics to show their support for hard-pressed Christians in the Holy Land by undertaking pilgrimages of support.
Leading 175 Irish pilgrims in a historic ‘Christian Solidarity pilgrimage’ to the Holy Land this week, the Primate of All-Ireland used a meeting with the Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun, to ask participants to invite their families and friends to make a concrete gesture with local Christians by undertaking a pilgrimage and visiting Bethlehem.
During the meeting, Mayor Baboun outlined how the Christian population of the city where Christ was born is dwindling due to conflict and the ongoing lack of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Ms Baboun – herself a Christian – appealed to the Irish pilgrims not to forget Bethlehem.
Archbishop Eamon – who also met with senior Church leaders this week – addressed the pilgrims in Bethlehem saying: “When you return to your homes and communities, your parishes and places of work, tell your friends, family and colleagues that the city of Bethlehem wants to be open and welcome pilgrims and is awaiting their presence.”
Outlining his hopes for a “just and lasting peace with security” between Israel and the Palestinians, Archbishop Eamon drew on the experience of the peace process in Ireland. “We too have had armed soldiers on our streets, heavily-fortified checkpoints and security walls which interfere with the normality that ought to be daily family and commercial life.”
“At the same time, through the great blessing of God that is the peace process in Ireland, we also know that resolution and reconciliation are possible and that violence and conflict can be overcome and replaced by peace and security,” he said.
Christians used to make up some 85% of the population of Bethlehem. However, this has halved in recent decades and there are real fears that within a few generations there may no longer by any Christians in the city of Christ’s birth. Many emigrate to other parts of the world in search of better opportunities for their families.
The Christian Solidarity pilgrimage to the Holy Land was organized by MAP Travel.