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Gaza

Years of conflict and closure have left 80 per cent of the 1.5 million population of Gaza dependent on international assistance. Photo by Elodie Pierrot/Secours Catholique

Caritas directors from around the world will be on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land 12-16 May in support of peace and the work of Caritas Jerusalem.

Caritas Jerusalem says Palestinians are living a “continuous emergency” where needs are increasing and resources are decreasing. It urges the world to turn its attention back to the Holy Land’s forgotten crisis.

In a message for Nakba Day, marked on 15 May, Caritas Jerusalem says that while Israel gained its independence in 1948, Palestinians are still waiting to gain theirs. Nakba day (Day of the Catastrophe) marks when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes as a result of the declaration of Israeli independence on 14 May 1948.

“We still believe that the best gift the Lord and the world could give this Holy Land is the gift of peace,” said Fr Raed Abusahlia, director of Caritas Jerusalem. “Peace, is not only for the benefit of the Palestinian people but ensures prosperity and tranquillity to the Israeli people also. It is good for their existence and future as well as for ours.”

Cycles of violence and blockades on goods means Palestinians are hit hard by unemployment and difficulties in creating a stable and fear-free life for their children.

Caritas Jerusalem has been offering support to Palestinians for nearly 50 years. It operates in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. It provides financial assistance for food and medical care as well as for school and university fees.

Caritas Jerusalem also runs three health centres and works with communities to ensure needy families have food through small scale farming and small business initiatives. In addition it runs a strong youth volunteer programme in the West Bank.

Pilgrimmage of peace

Caritas Jerusalem

Caritas Jerusalem provides financial assistance for food and medical care as well as for school and university fees in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Photo by Katie Orlinsky/Caritas Internationalis

Archbishop Youssef Soueif, president of Caritas Cyprus and Caritas Internationalis Executive Board member, will be leading the pilgrimage. He said, “We will be in solidarity with Caritas Jerusalem. We will visit the local Church and pray for justice, peace and reconciliation from the holy places, where Our Lord showed by his person, God’s love and mercy toward every human being.

“The pilgrimage will strengthen the bonds of brotherhood among the members of Caritas family, starting from the spiritual relationships to the incarnated values of the diaconia and charity.”

During the visit, the group will visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Mount of Olives and other places which are powerfully symbolic in Christianity.

Pope Francis will also make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land a week later. In a three-day visit he will visit Jordan, Palestine and Israel, meeting with religious and political leaders in each of these states.