Investiture Ceremony in Ireland: “let us together continue to pray and hope.”
IRELAND – July 14th 2015. The Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine, Msgr. William Shomali has participated at the Annual Investiture Promotions Ceremony for the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulcher at the Irish Lieutenancy in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He briefed the attendance about the situation in the Holy Land.
Presided by His Eminence the Cardinal Emeritus, Seán Brady, and in the presence of the Lieutenant, His Excellency Charles Kelly, the ceremony of investiture was the occasion to receive four more new members in the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher for the Irish Lieutenancy.
In a briefing which he delivered at the end of the ceremony, Bishop Shomali thanked the 200 “members of this Lieutenancy for their involvement in many projects of the Latin Patriarchate, in supporting education and especially the school of Ajloun (Jordan)”.
He started his speech by mentioning some “positive signals” coming from the Holy Land: “We still thank the Lord for the canonization of two Palestinian saints in Rome on May 17. It was a great feast for the Christian community. 3000 people from the Holy Land and Lebanon were present. Many knights joined us to celebrate these two saints”, he added.
“Two new priests for the Latin Patriarchate were ordained in last June, 9 others were ordained the year before. The Lord blesses us abundantly with young priests.” And he continued saying “thanks to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, we could receive support, not only to the seminary, the schools and the parishes, but also to produce important liturgical books.”
His Excellency referred also to “the academic results of LPJ schools in Palestine which were excellent in terms of grades and percentage of success. 94% of students of the LP schools succeeded while the government average was 61%.”
Talking about the dominant atmosphere in the Holy City, Msgr Shomali noticed that “Jerusalem experiences an escalation of violence, fueled by religious hatred between Muslims and Jews” and that “the confrontation takes place around Al Aksa- or Temple Mount, as well as synagogues and mosques”.
An interreligious challenge to the small Christian community in Jerusalem occurred several weeks ago when “a pamphlet (signed by ISIS) was distributed in a district of Beit Hanina, asking Christians to leave the area and the city before the end of Ramadan otherwise they would be killed.” The Bishop explained then that by “understating the seriousness of those threats” the church tried to calm the community.
“We are allowed at this point, continued the bishop, to ask about the future of the Christian community in the Middle East and the Holy Land.” Joining his voice to that of the Latin bishops who published a statement during their meeting, two weeks ago, in Cyprus, Msgr Shomali estimated that “our future depends on the quality of our faith. Furthermore, we are confident that interreligious dialogue can help to better coexistence with our Muslim brothers because there are many people of good will, who reject radicalism and intolerance and respect the freedom of conscience and religious pluralism.”
Referring to relations with Judaism, His Excellency noticed that this “religious dialogue should be easier because of the common values we share such as the Bible, biblical figures, the Psalms and common ethical values such as human virtues, the dignity and value of life.” However, these relations in the State of Israel have known some moments of tension during the last period, as a result of the “Price Tag” movement – a fundamentalist Jewish group which attacks and burns mainly Christian sites-. The last two examples were on the “26 February 2015. An arson attack on a Greek Orthodox seminary for the study of Christianity next to Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem” and on the “18 June 2015. In a suspected price tag attack by extremists, arsonists burnt down part of the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee”.
Despite of all these challenges, bishop Shomali seems to be optimistic: “The positive side of it is that the leaders of the three religions, along with Israeli and Palestinian politicians have reacted together and condemned these acts.” And beyond optimism the bishop “hopes” because he believes that “The Lord knows how to surprise us and to give generously and more than our expectations. In fact, Jerusalem is the city of great surprises. There, the Lord arose on the third day when nobody believed. Relying on this, let us together continue to pray and hope”, he concluded.