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Bringing HOPE to Christians in the Holy Land

November 4th, 2013by Dan Andriacco

One of the great things about the Catholic Church is that it’s Catholic – that is, universal. Catholics are all over the world.

But in the Holy Land, where you might most expect to them, Christians are a shrinking minority. Their numbers are dwindling as they either leave their homeland for safety and opportunity or adopt religion of their neighbors.

This tragic situation was brought home in early October when seven educators from Latin Patriarchate Schools in the Holy Land visited several Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Their 10-day stay was part of Project HOPE (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education), a locally based teacher-to-teacher exchange program. Fr. Faysal Hijazen, superintendent of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Israel, Palestine, and part of Jordan, led the group. Six years ago, students and teachers from the Archdiocese visited the Holy Land. This time around, those same teachers served as hosts for Patriarchate teachers staying in their homes.

“Concern for the dwindling Christian population in the birthplace of our faith encourages our educators to promote global solidarity with Holy Land educators by developing mutually beneficial, long-term relationships,” according to HOPE’s mission statement. “They do this through sharing educational initiatives and teaching strategies to promote the Catholic vision for peace and understanding.”

Note word “solidarity,” a key concept in Catholic social justice teaching. It doesn’t come out of a problem-solving mode. It means “being with,” not “working for.” Not everybody can go on pilgrimage or make a financial contribution to help Christians in the Holy Land, but we can all be with them in prayer. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. That’s solidarity.

A fitting prayer from the tradition of the Church might be the Memorare:

Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided, inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee O Virgin of Virgins my Mother, to you do I come, before you I stand sinful and sorrowful,  O Mother of the Word Incarnate despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy  hear and answer me.  Amen.

Photo: Palestinian teachers and their hosts gathered with Project HOPE supporters for a farewell Mass and dinner at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse in Cincinnati.

Photo by Ann Andriacco Used with Permission.

Dan Andriacco

Dan Andriacco has been communications director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati since 1997. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Religion from the Athenaeum of Ohio and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. He has written five published mystery novels and three other books.