“Pilgrimages are essential to preserving the Holy Land's Christian character”

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Daily life hasn't changed in Jerusalem, but recent tensions caused by the U.S. Embassy's opening in the Holy City have weakened the already fragile ties between Arabs and Israelites. 

Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate
“Places of encounter, communication channels, between Israelites and Palestinians were already very fragile, but now they're completely non-existent. This is probably the main political change, but daily life in Jerusalem hasn't changed. The peace process, as we know, doesn't exist. I'm no politician, but I would say that this phase, this type of process, has ended.”

Although there are no day-to-day changes, peace has inevitably suffered, and the latest streak of violence has taken its toll mostly on territories like Gaza. 

In that context, though there are few Christians, they are a fundamental factor. In the midst of bad news, the good news is that, despite everything, the number of pilgrims visiting the Holy Land has grown immensely. 

Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate
“One of the most wonderful developments of these last two years is that pilgrimages have increased by at least 50 percent. They are an essential part of preserving the Holy Land's Christian character.”

Msgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa participated in the presentation in Rome of a project seeking to ensure that Christian character is never lost. 

It involves this center, Saxum, whose goal is helping the pilgrim deepen his or her understanding of the Holy Land. It does so, for example, through training courses for tour guides or impressive multimedia journeys for pilgrims. 

Saxum is also located on the Road to Emmaus, which makes another one of its appeals the possibility of walking in the same places the resurrected Jesus met with the two Disciples. 

It's an initiative that will breathe new life into the Christian community, a minority among two sides who have no intention of holding dialogue. 

Apostolic Administrator, Latin Patriarchate
“In some way, the numbers are concerning because we are few. In Israel, there are 7 million Israeli Jews, 1.5 million Israeli Arabs and 130,000 Christians, divided among Catholics, Orthodox and others. In Palestine, there are 4.5 million Muslims and 45,000 Christians. The numbers are indicative of a worrying reality.”

It's a small, but very active and fundamental presence thanks to institutions like schools and hospitals or pilgrimages. They're elements that aim to contribute to peacebuilding efforts by helping all inhabitants in the Holy Land, regardless of their beliefs. 

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