Canon Hatem Shehadeh (pictured), 57, told The Tablet he was sad to see the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the Middle East decline due to economic, political and social pressures.
“If emigration continues at this rate, maybe in 20 years you will come to Galilee, the land of the Holy One, and find the churches have become museums because they are empty of people,” he warned.
He said that the Jerusalem Diocese was “tiny in terms of numbers”, but covered Lebanon, Jordan, part of Syria, Israel and Palestine, and was “encouraging our people to stay, be strong in their faith and work for peace, which will end emigration.”
The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will grant a plenary indulgence to those who participate in the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August. A decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary said an indulgence would be granted to those “spiritually prepared in the best way possible”, who “devoutly participate at some event during the ninth World Meeting of Families”. The conditions for the granting of the indulgence include Confession, Communion, prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, and a heart completely detached from sin.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh urged people not to look to the plenary indulgence for personal benefit but for the “benefit of a relative or a friend who has gone to their rest who may be in need of God’s mercy”.
Nuclear weapons plea
The Bishop of Galloway has said that the threat of nuclear war “poisons the soul of humanity” and has called on the British government to ratify the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Bishop William Nolan joined with senior Church of Scotland and Episcopal Church clergy to call for Britain to sign the United Nations treaty, which was opened for signature nine months ago but has not yet been ratified by any country with a nuclear arsenal. Bishop Nolan, the president of the Scottish Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, spent last Saturday at a Pentecost Witness at the Faslane Naval Base, which is where Britain’s Trident submarine force is based.
Vatican XI tour
The Vatican Cricket Team will play their first match at Lord’s, and will also be pitted against the Houses of Parliament XI, during their summer UK tour.
The team, made up of priests, deacons and seminarians studying and working in Rome and at the Vatican, will also play their first match against a special Stonyhurst Gentlemen’s XI at the Jesuit college in Lancashire. The Vatican team was set up in 2013 to establish ties between the Catholic Church and countries and regions where cricket is popular, and to encourage interfaith dialogue. Its opponents at Lord’s will be an interfaith team, while other matches will include one against a Commonwealth XI, and against the Royal Household Cricket Club at Windsor. The tour begins at Stonyhurst on 4 July. “We are extremely pleased that this high-profile tour will begin with a match at Stonyhurst, acknowledging our long history of combining faith, academics and sporting excellence,” Jimmy Burns, the president of the Stonyhurst Association, said.
Church sale rethink urged
A parishioner of a Catholic church in Kent that is up for sale says he has started going to the local Methodist church instead, and has called on the diocese to rethink its decision to sell the building.
Michael Walsh, 77, has been a Catholic all his life and used to go to Mass at St Martin of Tours Church in Lydd. However, the 1930s building was put up for sale more than a year ago for £350,000. Mr Walsh has described the motive for the decision to sell the building as “greed”, and says he has started going to the town’s Methodist church, where the congregation is very welcoming. Other protesters when the church was closed last year included parishioner Anne-Marie Meade, 58, who wrote to Pope Francis to say she would struggle to make the 30-mile round trip to Hythe for Mass. As well as St Martin’s, Southwark archdiocese has put the churches of St Augustine in Littlestone and the Sacred Heart in Chatham up for sale.
A representative of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem has warned that if emigration of Christians in the Holy Land continues at current levels, most churches will be museums within two decades.