Your presence gives us ‘strength’ Jerusalem bishop’s message of hope to ACN pilgrims

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1111HolyLand_ACN pilgrims in Jerusalem_2By John Pontifex
A CATHOLIC Bishop in Jerusalem has thanked pilgrims from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need for going ahead with the trip in spite of increased tension in the Holy Land.
Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said the pilgrimage led by ACN UK National Director Neville Kyrke-Smith had “strengthened” the local community.
The visit came after Israeli police used stun grenades to disperse the crowds after Muslims tried last Wednesday (5th November) to enter the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.
A Palestinian man described as a militant was shot dead last week after he rammed his van into pedestrians at a tram stop in Jerusalem’s city centre, killing an Israeli policeman.
More than a dozen people were injured during the incident which came amid increased violence and tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank, with scuffles taking place almost daily.
An Israel Defence Forces soldier was stabbed yesterday (Monday, 10th November) in an apparent terror attack near the Haganah train station in south Tel Aviv and later died from his wounds.
Speaking to the pilgrims from ACN, the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Bishop Shomali said he was especially grateful that they had come, given that other groups had cancelled their trips. He said: “Thank you for your pilgrimage. We are strengthened by your presence. Such visits make a real difference to us.”
Highlighting the increasingly dark outlook for the region, he said: “We must try to be a bridge between different communities.
“Peace does not seem possible for politicians but for God everything is possible.”
He described how, in an act of solidarity following the violence, bishops had visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is on the Temple Mount.
Describing a visit to areas close to the clashes between Israeli security and Muslim communities trying to enter the Temple Mount, ACN’s Neville Kyrke-Smith referred to the sight of discarded cartridges and the “dreadful smell of gas” left over from the stun grenades.
1111HolyLand_ACN pilgrims in Jerusalem 1Speaking from the Holy Land, he said: “There have been a few challenges during the course of the pilgrimage but we are delighted to be here and we want to send out a message that, in spite of the difficulties, the Holy Land is definitely safe for pilgrims.”
Mr Kyrke-Smith did however acknowledge concerns that the conflict could widen.
In response to the growing security problems, the Jordanian ambassador has been withdrawn from Israel for the first time in 20 years.
In the nearby West Bank, a van driven by Palestinians hit three soldiers. Three others were injured, one of them seriously.
Mr Kyrke-Smith highlighted the importance of ACN’s continuing support for key projects in the Holy Land – including help for seminarians in Bethlehem, craftsmen who make olive wood rosaries and other gifts, students at Bethlehem University as well as sponsorship of inter-faith initiatives.
“We continue to urge people to come to the Holy Land, to give witness to the need to encourage and support local communities – especially in these difficult times.
“In the light of ongoing tensions and attacks, prayers for peace – and particularly for the peace of Jerusalem – are of paramount importance.”

Editor’s Notes
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Blessed John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in more than 140 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 176 languages and more than 51 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161.