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New York Cardinal Dolan’s Holy Land visit cut short

Cardinal Timothy Dolan meets Mahmoud Abbas


John Burger - published on 04/21/24

Cardinal Dolan meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as ordinary people helped by Church programs.

US Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, and many ordinary people who are assisted by the Church’s work in the Holy Land during a visit this week.

Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, traveled to Israel and the West Bank in his role as chairman of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. He was accompanied by Archdiocese of New York and CNEWA personnel, including Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, who is president of both CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission.

The delegation had some frightening moments the night of April 13-14, when Iran launched more than 300 attack drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles against Israel. The Israeli military intercepted most of them.

“That was very disturbing for us in the middle of the night — to be awoken by sirens and then to run downstairs, here in the pilgrim guest house” in Jerusalem, the cardinal told Vatican News. “But then the next morning, sitting here, I was amazed to see that buses and trams were filled with people going to work and that everything had returned to a paradoxical normalcy. On the one hand, I thought this is tragic because people here are used to what they should never get used to — war. And on the other hand, I thought it was also a beautiful example of resilience against violence and evil. Life must go on and we also came here so that peace may continue.”

Cardinal Dolan and his entourage reportedly left the Holy Land two days before their scheduled departure date of April 18, wary of escalation in the Middle East conflict, with Israel vowing retaliation for Iran’s attack.

Christians “held in high regard”

But Dolan expressed satisfaction with the visit, which included meetings with Church and civic officials as well as Palestinian refugees. 

Of his meetings with Presidents Abbas [photo above] and Herzog, the cardinal said, “They both appreciate and they both are very solicitous of the Christian presence. I was very pleased to receive gratitude and compliments for the Pontifical Mission” from them. 

“I saw that the Christian communities, and in particular the Catholic community led by Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, are held in high regard,” he continued. “In particular in the grave situation that developed following the 7 October attack, our efforts to always use words of peace, to promote a mindset of encounter is recognized and appreciated well beyond our small communities. Aside from our activities, I noticed that people welcome Pope Francis’ strong voice. Some criticize him, some are happy with him. But everybody appreciates his strong voice in urging peace and dialogue.”

Commenting on the desperate attempts to find peace, as well as the threat of escalation into a wider Middle East war, the cardinal commented, “The real solution is a renewal of our belief in common humanity that leads us  to recognize that we are all children of God, made in his image and likeness, deserving of dignity and respect. And that is not only the voice of Cardinal Pizzaballa, but also the strong voice of Pope Francis and of the entire Church in which we, as The Pontifical Mission, carry out a precious service for unity and peace — to be light for this world as the Gospel asks of us.”

Cardinal Dolan visited the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, where the Pontifical Mission supports youth programming, and the Creche, a refuge for abandoned children in Bethlehem, run by the Daughters of Charity.

CNEWA supports the Catholic Church in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. The Pontifical Mission was established by Pope Pius XII in 1949 to support the work of the Church in the Holy Land.

CardinalsIsraelPalestinePope FrancisWar
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