Holy Land Christians ‘vital, vibrant’ – Bishop

Christian schools, hospitals offer ‘powerful witness’

An Irish bishop who travelled to the Holy Land to meet the Christian community has hailed the “powerful witness” of the minority community there.

Bishop William Crean of Cloyne, speaking to The Irish Catholic this week following his return from a visit by western bishops to Gaza and the West Bank said the Christian community continues to have an impact on life in those regions in excess of its numerical size.

“Gaza’s Christians are engaged in so much humanitarian work,” the bishop said, pointing both to Christian-established hospitals and schools which provide for all, regardless of religious affiliation.

“The hospital in Gaza is small,” he explained, “providing 20 beds. But in terms of out out-patient care, that same hospital treated 42,000 people in 2013. That is a powerful witness.”

The same held true, he added, of the West Bank, where the Christian-founded Bethlehem University and a girls’ school continues to educate thousands of students every year.

“The Christian presence continues to be vital and vibrant,” he said, while echoing the statement issued by the trip organisers, the Co-ordination of Bishops’ Conferences in support of the Church in the Holy Land, which decried Gaza as a “man-made disaster” offering a “seemingly hopeless situation” for people there.

“The Christians had one message for us to bring back,” Bishop Crean said, “and that was ‘do not forget us’.”