At the roots of Europe

The plenary of the Council of the Bishops' Conference of Europe to be held in the Holy Land September 11 to 16. Program, meetings, and items on the agenda

An “outposted” assembly will bring together the presidents of European Bishops’ Conferences. At the invitation of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem  Fouad Twal, the annual plenary meeting of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) will take place in the Holy Land September 11 to 16, attended by the presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences representing 45 Countries of the Old Continent. Where Christian faith was born. “For the first time in the history of CCEE a plenary assembly is being held” in Israel and Palestine, in the land where Christianity was born and developed”, CCEE, the organism with head office in San Gallo, made known in a statement. 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 of Patriarch Twal, the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences intend to undertake a pilgrimage “to the very roots of Europe, of European culture.” Mons. Duarte da Cunha, Secretary General of CCEE, said to this regard: “”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.” Da Cunha added: “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.”The main themes. The meeting 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”, Da Cunha pointed out. “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.” 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 on some of the common challenges involving the cultural, ethical, social and legislative planes. The knot of migration will be faced in the bishops’ plenary. Several steps. The program of the long transfer abroad envisages celebrations in the holy sites of 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. Special relevance will be given to the prayer vigil for the family in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth on September 12, 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. In Bethlehem and at the Holy Sepulcre. “Naturally included” in the program, – underlines CCEE in a release – 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 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.

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