The new entity will provide help to those who are far from churches but wish to live their faith despite the difficulties. The canonical erection is set for 20 May, Solemnity of Pentecost. Maintaining unity in diversity underpins the community in the Holy Land, which has a " universal and local character".
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, has ordered the creation of a personal parish in Israel dedicated to migrants and refugees.
This parish and episcopal vicariate will "guarantee a complete pastoral service" to those "who are far from our churches" and who "despite difficult social circumstances" still want to live their faith in depth.
The canonical erection is set for 20 May, a symbolic date because it coincides with the Solemnity of Pentecost.
At the same time, the prelate ordered turning the “Coordination for the pastoral care of migrants and refugees” into an “Episcopal Vicariate for migrants and refugees” under an episcopal vicar.
This will apply to Israel and concerns about 200,000 economic immigrants, most from the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka but also some from South America.
To these must be added refugees fleeing war and conflict – some 40,000 mostly from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, not all Christian, and in some cases the victims of violence.
"For several years the Church community in Israel has been enriched by tens of thousands of foreigners who live permanently in our territory and fill our churches,” writes Mgr Pizzaballa in a letter to the community.
“Filipinos, Indians, Sri Lankans and many others have now become an integral part of our community. Alongside them, refugees have arrived in recent years, coming from South-Sudan and Eritrea.”
“Initially, the pastoral ministry to these groups was carried out by priests, mostly religious,” not diocesan priests, “who spontaneously put themselves at the service of the pastoral needs migrant faithful.”
Eventually, “the pastoral service was more organized” to meet growing needs so that a few years ago, the “coordination of pastoral ministry to migrants was created”.
During this period, many migrants and refugees sought shelter in the Church of the Holy Land, which welcomed them in a place where they could share their faith.
However, many live far from parishes and don’t have access to religious services. They are “often at the mercy of criminality and other risk situations, as well as evangelical sects.”
“Furthermore, it must be said that from a legal and canonical viewpoint, as well as social, most of these people live in borderline, often irregular, situations.”
With the establishment of the parish and the vicariate the outreach work among migrants can be boosted in its many respects: pastoral, sacramental, educational.
Of course, migrants who are currently active in the life of a parish can continue, if they wish, without turning to the new entity.
Ultimately, “with the diversity of languages and cultures, which must be respected, it is also necessary to have elements of unity and clarity between the different groups [. . .] to work for the unity of the whole Church of the Holy Land”, which has “a universal and local character”.