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Saturday, September 20, 2014

US bishops emphasize importance of prayer during Holy Land pilgrimage

Sheik Abdul Majeed Atta of Bethlehem listens to retired Bishop Bernard Harrington of Winona, after an interfaith prayer service

By Judith Sudilovskly/ Catholic News Service

US bishops visiting the Holy Land on a peace pilgrimage emphasized the importance of prayer, with Christians and non-Christians.

"Prayer is so powerful, and it can also strengthen our resolve" to accomplish good "on behalf of all parties involved," said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, one of 18 bishops who made the nine-day pilgrimage for peace in mid-September.

The bishops prayers alongside Jews and Muslims "indicate that, as Pope Francis says, we are all (one) human family praying to one God. We, all believers, can find an opportunity to move forward to unity for the benefit of all believers and nonbelievers."

The prayers, which were held in some form every day of the pilgrimage, also gave the bishops an opportunity to interact with local Israelis and Palestinians and emphasized that both peoples want the same out of their lives as average Americans, Bishop Pates told Catholic News Service.

Bishop Paul J. Bradley of Kalamazoo, Michigan, reflected on the series of joint prayers the bishops held with local Christians and alongside Muslims and Jews.

"Praying together has to be the lifeblood of whatever solution is reached," he told Catholic News Service.

In Jerusalem, the bishops, donning the traditional Jewish male head covering, the kippa or yarmulke, joined a progressive Jewish synagogue for their evening prayers September 12, welcoming in the Sabbath. The following day they joined part of an Armenian Orthodox liturgy at the Armenian Patriarchate in the Old City, followed by an ecumenical prayer service for peace that included, among others, Armenian, Lutheran and Anglican faithful.

Another day they also prayed for peace and victims of the Holocaust with rabbis in Jerusalem, and in Bethlehem, West Bank, they prayed alongside Muslims.

During parish visits in Jifna and Nablus in the West Bank, the bishops celebrated Mass with local Catholics and prayed for peace at the traditional site of Jacob's well. In Galilee they celebrated Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes and at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, noted that their interreligious prayers with Muslims, Christians and Jews highlighted the fact that everybody has a claim to the Holy Land.

"As Catholics we look to this land as sacred land, and so for us to be able to come here in a climate of peace is important," said Bishop Cantu. "To hear the human beings in this sacred land where our faith began is important, and we should care about what happens here."

"Anytime you pray and ask something from God, He gives you grace," said retired Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo, Texas. "It depends on how you use it. Prayer should lead to action. If you do not use the grace God gives you, you are failing God. Our prayer here is a sign of encouragement -- to pray with people who do not think like you and accept the prayer is a beautiful sign of hope and encouragement."

Retired Bishop Bernard J. Harrington of Winona, Minnesota, said he was returning with a renewed concern for prayer, while the devastation in the Gaza Strip called for a much deeper prayer when action is needed.

"We have very little time and we have to pray and hopefully get our government to help bring about a two-state solution," Bishop Harrington said.

While some of the bishops have had opportunities to participate in interfaith prayer before, for others, such as Bishops Pfeifer and William F. Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, whose dioceses have few religious minorities, the prayers during the pilgrimage provided them with new experiences.

"(The opportunity) opened my eyes to a reality which has not been a part of my life. There are not many opportunities in Western Kentucky, but I will speak to encourage people to reach out," said Bishop Medley.

"Prayer is a dialogue with God, but it is also a witness to the world that we believe there are good people here with human dignity, who long for human dignity, and we can show the world and to people here that we don't have to take sides," he said.

"In each place where we prayed together, there was a great deal of respect," said retired Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran. "We felt we were all saying the same prayer, turning to God and asking him to help us heal. It gives me great hope that there will be peace here, even though politically now it doesn't seem so. I have faith there will be peace here before I die."

Source: http://en.abouna.org/en/holylands/us-bishops-emphasize-importance-prayer-during-holy-land-pilgrimage

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