VISIT OF ARCHBISHOP CORDES TO THE HOLY LAND
(November 7-10, 2002)
Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", along with Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, an Official of the same Dicastery, travelled to the Holy Land from November 7-10 to visit Catholic institutions and their representatives.
Following the terrible attacks on the World Trade Center, the Holy Father John Paul II launched an appeal for material and spiritual support to assist those who were suffering as a result of war and terrorism. His Holiness designated $400,000 (US) from these funds to assist the Holy Land. Gifts were made from these funds and personally consigned by Archbishop Cordes during his visit to the Latin Patriarch Sabbah of Jerusalem, to the Custodian of the Holy Land of the Franciscan Fathers, to the local Caritas agency, and to different Catholic communities.
The purpose of this visit was not simply to deliver the monies collected. Through a variety of meetings, the Archbishop, as the delegate of the Holy Father, wanted above all to encourage Christians to remain in these troubled places, as so many missionaries are doing currently in an heroic way. Support was offered to improve the conditions of life and work in their lands, as a fruitful seed of humanity and of peace.
The occupation of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which lasted thirty-nine days, has been the latest proof of there being a necessary presence of Christians in the Holy Land. In fact, without them, there would be the danger of the Holy Places becoming museums or falling to destruction. The continued acts of violence between Palestinians and Israelis unfortunately represents a persistent menace to the lives of all the inhabitants of the region. Hostels for pilgrims are empty, while in Bethlehem, unemployment has affected 80% of the population. Thus, it is easy to understand the desire of many people to leave the country.
The President of "Cor Unum", after being received at the airport in Tel Aviv by representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, continued on to Jerusalem to meet with the Custodian of the Holy Land and the Melkite Exarch Haddad. He then met with representatives of Caritas Jerusalem, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, and Catholic Relief Services. On Friday, November 8th, after celebrating the Eucharist in the Grotto of the Nativity, the Archbishop visited the Pontifical Institute "Ephatha" for deaf and mute persons, Holy Family Hospital, the University of Bethlehem, Caritas and other Catholic aid organisations, and the delegation of the Hebrew language community. The following day, he headed to Jericho to visit the Catholic parish and school, and spoke with Dr. Emile Jarjoui, who is in charge of religious affairs for the Palestinian Authority. On Sunday the 10th, Archbishop Cordes met with Latin Patriarch Sabbah, Ambassador Gadi Golan, Head of Religious Affairs for the Government of Israel, and with the Head of the International Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of Israel (MASHAV).