Archbishop Establishes Catholic Parish for Migrants in Jerusalem

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, center, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, holds a statue of Baby Jesus in Saint Catherine's Church at the end of the Christmas Midnight Mass and walks in procession to the 'Grotto', where Christians believe the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, in the …
Musa Al Shaer/Pool Photo via AP

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has announced the opening of a new parish specifically for immigrants and refugees that will provide pastoral care for the “tens of thousands of foreigners” who have settled in the area.

The Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, made the decision to open a personal parish “for all migrants and refugees in Israel” along with an “Episcopal Vicariate for migrants and refugees, led by an episcopal vicar,” according to the press agency of the Italian bishops conference (SIR).

The aim of the two new organizations is “to guarantee a complete pastoral service to the many who are far from our churches, but who—despite the difficult social circumstances in which they live—still want to have an ecclesial accompaniment,” the archbishop said in a letter that was made public on Thursday. The new structures are scheduled to be up and running by May 20, the Christian feast of Pentecost.

The prelate said that the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was seeking to respond to the needs of the Catholic community in Israel that for several years “has been enriched by tens of thousands of foreigners who live permanently in our territory and fill our churches.”

Among them are Filipinos, Indians, Sri Lankans, Latin Americans and many others, who have become “an integral part of the local Catholic community,” he said, and they are now joined by numerous refugees who have arrived in recent years from Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. According to the archbishop, the migrants now number some 200,000 while the number of refugees has risen to approximately 40,000.

Not all the migrants are Christians, obviously, the archbishop said, and the sort of care offered will depend on the needs of each one. As an example, often when parents go off to work, the children are left on their own, and the Church can assist in offering some sort of daycare, he suggested.

“Naturally, any migrants who currently frequent the territorial parishes can continue to attend these parishes if they so desire,” the archbishop said. “Access to the sacraments in territorial parishes will continue to be open to all those who wish, without distinction, including migrants.”

The coordinator for the pastoral care of migrants, Father Rafic Nahra, said that the formation of the new parish will facilitate pastoral care for migrants and refugees, especially “those who for various reasons struggle to integrate into the local parishes.”

This parish will foster interaction and offer migrants a “very important ecclesial point of reference,” Father Nahra said.

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