By Linda Bordoni
A “personal parish” for migrants and refugees in Israel and an especially dedicated episcopal Vicariate have been created by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The man behind the initiative is the Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa who explained that in recent years a growing number of migrants and refugees have become an integral part of the community in Jerusalem and in other cities, highlighting the need for assistance and services that many traditional parishes are unable to offer.
Speaking to Vatican News, Archbishop Pizzaballa said the decision to go ahead with the project is the result of many months of discussion.
Pastoral and social services
Increasing numbers of migrants and refugees in Israel
There are many reasons an initiative such as this is important at this moment in time, Pizzaballa explained, the first of which is because the number of people who will be able to benefit from it has increased enormously.
“There are about 200 thousand people” from many different countries – not all, but most of them Christians, he said.
Many of them, Pizzaballa explained – find themselves in borderline situations, not only from a social point of view, but also from a canonical and legal point of view and often the traditional parishes are not equipped or are not able to deal with their situations.
“For the Christians, he said, our services are mainly pastoral, ecclesial, and to accompany them and to be present from a spiritual point of view.”
Of course, Pizzaballa continued, the Church is also very active from a social point of view and offers help with the children as well as liaising with NGOs and other humanitarian organizations.
We want to be prepared for new needs
The parish and episcopal Vicariate are being established in a moment of time in which there are controversy and differing opinions regarding the relocation on some 16,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants from Israel to other countries.
“We are not able to say what the government will decide regarding this situation but we want to be ready” he said.
Most probably, Pizzaballa concluded, they will be distributed in a different way throughout the country and “the parish and episcopal Vicariate want to be oriented, prepared, equipped for the new pastoral needs of these people.”
Canonical erection on 20 May
The date for the canonical erection of the parish and the Vicariate has been set for 20 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost.