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Children and their families living in the West Bank and Gaza are among the Middle East's most vulnerable populations. Elodie Perriot/Secours Catholique

Children and their families living in the West Bank and Gaza are among the Middle East’s most vulnerable populations. Elodie Perriot/Secours Catholique

Caritas pilgrims to the Holy Land are asking everyone to pray for peace and justice there in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, May 25-26.

Eighteen Caritas members took part in the pilgrimage to holy sites from 12 – 16 May.

They learned about the situation for Christian and Muslim communities. They met Christian leaders who explained the great difficulties their communities have faced since the occupation of Palestinian land from 1967.

In a statement, the pilgrims said, “Nearly 20 years since the Oslo Accords, political negotiations still offer no hope for a peaceful and just future for all the people of the Holy Land. Contrary to the Gospel message of John (10:10) that calls for all to be able to live life to the fullest, we witnessed the inability of the Palestinians to live a life with dignity.

“If there is ever to be peace and justice in this land, we must help Jews, Muslims and Christians of the Holy Land to find a way to live together with respect for one another.

“We were shocked by the lack of human dignity for those in the occupied Palestinian territories. This includes a lack of freedom of movement, constant psychological pressure and restricted access to land and water.

“All Christian leaders we met asked us to raise awareness of the desperate situation of Christian and Muslim communities in this part of the world. We recognised that too little is known about the situation and that the media representation of these issues is often unbalanced.

“At the same time, we were impressed by the resilience of those whom we met, by the way in which Christians and Muslims support one another’s communities and by the active support which Caritas Jerusalem and other Caritas partners (See a film on the work of CRS below) give to these communities.

“The leaders we met are looking to the Universal Church to support their efforts to achieve justice and peace. The visit of Pope Francis, is seen as a powerful symbol of solidarity. We also see the visit as an invitation to the world to hear the cry of the people of Palestine for justice and peace.”