The grand knight of the order, Cardinal John Foley, affirmed this Saturday when he explained both the importance of Jerusalem and the role of the order at a conference in Washington, D.C..
The cardinal explained how the order provides about two thirds of the funding for the Latin Rite Patriarchate, which runs many schools and hospitals open not just to Christians, but also Muslims, Jews and anyone else in need.
“Everyone is welcome because we believe that it is through charity -- true love of our neighbor -- that mutual understanding and respect will be built -- and these are the foundation stones for peace,” Cardinal Foley said.
The cardinal was speaking to a conference sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.
This foundation began as collaboration between a Palestinian American Christian and a Jordanian priest serving in Palestine, who believed Christians in the United States would reach out to help Christians in the Holy Land if only they were aware of their situations.
Indeed, Cardinal Foley explained that the largest percentage of knights and ladies from his order does come from the United States.
The cardinal also reflected on some of the obstacles the faithful in the Holy Land are facing.
“I have met with fathers and mothers who cannot find work because they cannot be assured that they will be able to travel from home to their potential place of business,” he said. “Every day, they have to go through checkpoints and are never sure if they will be allowed through. I have met with students, eager to learn, who are unable to get to school regularly.
“I have visited homes where families hoard their water because they cannot be certain when their water tanks will be refilled. I visited the Catholic seminary over the Christmas holidays last year and was both saddened and inspired by the many seminarians who had not gone home because they were afraid that they would not be allowed to cross over the border between Jordan and Israel or through the checkpoints and get back to the seminary.”
Cardinal Foley called the wall separating Jerusalem and Bethlehem the “most tragic thing I have seen” and noted how it keeps farmers from land that has been in their families for generations.
“It is humiliating and distressing,” he said. “I appreciate the Israeli government’s concern for security and respect that. But many of these measures raise serious human rights issues that they refuse to acknowledge and address.”
The cardinal noted how members of the Equestrian Order are called to see the suffering of the Holy Land Christians firsthand.
“They are strongly encouraged to visit not only the Holy Sites -- and this is certainly important for their own spiritual edification -- but also the Catholics and other Christians who are living there,” he said. “We call them the ‘living stones’ because they offer a living testimony to our faith in the land where our Lord lived and preached, died and rose from the dead. […] We read or see in the news almost every day accounts of the tragic struggle being played out in the land Our Lord made sacred by his holy presence. And so, we must continue to be instruments of his peace.”
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On the Net:
Video of Cardinal Foley’s address: www.hcef.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=790792589:live-conference&catid=130:conference