Europe in the Holy Land

Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe in Jerusalem

At the invitation of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the annual Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), the assembly which brings together the Presidents of all the Bishops' Conferences representing 45 nations on the continent, will take from 11-16 September in the Holy Land.

It is the first time in CCEE's history that a Plenary Assembly is taking place in the Holy Land, in the land where Christianity was born and developed. The exceptional nature of the event is further underlined by the fact that it is the first time in the recent history of Christianity that such a large number of high-level representatives of the European episcopate are meeting there at the same time.

By accepting the invitation for the Holy Land to host their meeting, the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences intend to undertake a pilgrimage to the very roots of Europe, of European culture.

"The meeting is in fact a pilgrimage to the places where the Christian faith was born. From this land, Jesus' disciples travelled throughout the world to bring the new message of Jesus. The Gospel arrived in Europe having set out from this land, too! When Europe goes to the Holy Land, it is going, therefore, to the place of its Judaeo-Christian roots. This area of the world has always been a crossroads of civilisation, permeated by great cultural differences and at times by strong social tensions which in the past have united and today still continue to bind Europe and the Middle East", said Mgr Duarte da Cunha, General Secretary of CCEE.

There are two central themes to the meeting: the figure of Jesus and sharing about the challenges of the Church in Europe.
At the centre of their work, the bishops will focus above all on the Person of Jesus, true God and true man. "To look at the historical Jesus who lived in this land is very important to strengthen the relationship with the living Jesus today. To look at the historical reality which is at the start of the Christian faith and to know the person of Jesus within His people, is fundamental to understanding what He said and achieved. God made man came as a member of a people, that of Israel, which links almost genetically the People of Israel to all the Christian peoples of the land", Mgr Da Cunha stated.

A good deal of time will then be devoted to listening to and sharing about the "joys and challenges" which today pervade the Church in Europe. In turn, the Presidents will report on the situation in their own countries. It will also be an opportunity for a discussion about some of the common challenges.

As well as the various celebrations in the Holy Places in Galilee, such as Capernaum, Magdala and a procession in the town of Mi'ilya to mark the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, of particular importance will be a Prayer Vigil for the Family in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Saturday 12 September, led by the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, preceded by a meeting of the bishops with Catholic families from the city.

Naturally included in the meeting-pilgrimage of the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe is a visit to the city of Bethlehem, where, for Christians, God revealed Himself and dwelt in human history. There, the participants will visit in groups different charitable works, institutions through which the Church is trying to be a neighbour to the most needy.

These charitable works are for the most part managed by and are the fruit of the insight of numerous religious Congregations working in the Holy Land. In Bethlehem, the Presidents will pay tribute to the humble and hidden work of the numerous male and female consecrated religious. In particular, the bishops will have the opportunity to listen to the testimony of the Carmelite Sisters and the Sisters of the Rosary about the life of the two new Palestinian Saints (Sister Maria Alfonsina and Sister Maria of Jesus Crucified), canonised on 17 May.

In Bethlehem, the Presidents will also meet the Custos of the Holy Land, the bishops of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (ACOHL) and the representatives of other Christian denominations.

The Plenary Assembly will conclude on Wednesday 16 September with a celebration at the altar of the empty tomb of Jesus in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Also envisaged is a visit to the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Information about these visits will be given in the course of the meeting.

From 11-14 September, the meeting will be based at the Domus Galilaeae (Road 8277 - Korazim ISRAEL) in Galilee (north Israel), while from the afternoon of 14-16 September the meeting will take place at the Notre Dame International Center (Paratrooper's Road, P.O. Box 20531, 91204 Jerusalem).

Below journalists can see some of the highlights of the programme with information about the celebrations to be broadcast through live streaming, the opportunities for interviews, the sessions at which they can participate, and other information.
Please note: the full programme for the meeting, along with the list of participants, is available at the CCEE website or in the Asset Bank (see media information) made available by the Christian Media Center.

Source: CCEE