Each year the Presidents of the Bishop’s Conferences of Europe gather to analyze the current events and issues of the church in Europe: its challenges, success, and concerns.
This year, at the invitation of His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and for the first time in history, the Plenary Assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences took place in the Holy Land from the 11th to the 16th of September.
The European bishops came to the Holy Land for a number of pastoral and personal reasons. They wanted to be pilgrims in the footsteps of Jesus; they wanted to display their solidarity and support for the Christian communities of the Middle East; they wanted to come to the Holy Land – the place of our Christian roots – to consider and meditate on the challenges and obstacles facing Europe today.
The encounter took place in the Galilee region on the Mount of Beatitudes at Domus Galileae, the Israel base of the Neocatechumenal Way, as well as in Jerusalem at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, a Vatican institution under the care of the Legionaries of Christ and the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi. It was this proximity to the bishops and cardinals that allowed us to see and feel the example of these church leaders in a very personal way. We observed their worries, their joys, and the solidarity that Christians in Europe have desired to express to the population of the Middle East who suffered so much in the last few years due to the hardships of drought, war, and persecution.
In addition to their conferences, encounters, and dialogue to exchange opinions and viewpoints, the presidents of the Bishop’s Conferences requested to visit the Holy Sites, as well as meet with local families, individuals, and pastors. At the same time, they had opportunity to meet with political leaders to express their interest and concern regarding the current challenges and opportunities in this region.
This was a truly powerful human and Christian experience for which we can only say, “Thank you,” place it in the hands of God and pray that it produces much fruit in the future.
For the last event in Galilee the participants of the conference had a Eucharistic Celebration at Duc In Altum in Magdala. This brought much joy to the Magdala team, who were able to contemplate how Magdala is slowly but surely passing from obscurity and anonymity into the regular itineraries of pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. Dear cardinals, bishops, clergy, and participants thank you for your presence and prayers!
To conclude the event, a grand Eucharistic Celebration took place in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher from where the message of the resurrection parted to all the corners of the earth.