05 July 2018

The 70th anniversary of the Apostolic Delegation

The celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the institution of the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem and Palestine on the Mount of Olives

Actuality and events

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The celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the institution of the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem and Palestine took place on the Mount of Olives on the same day that the Church celebrates the Apostles Peter and Paul. The Delegation was created on 11 February 1948 by Pope Pius XII, separating the territory of Jerusalem, Palestine and the newly formed Jordan and Israel, as well as the island of Cyprus, from the Apostolic Nunciature in Cairo.

The current Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr Leopoldo Girelli, welcomed the numerous religious and civil authorities who arrived for the occasion. An opportunity also to celebrate the 5th year of the Pontificate of Pope Francis.

The Apostolic Nuncio choose to remember in his speech how: the Pope - given the circumstances of that period - had considered it important to have his own Representative residing in Jerusalem, to be closer to the local Church and have a better understanding of the situation in the Holy Land.
 
On this occasion - continued Mgr Girelli - it is my honor and privilege to pay tribute to all my Predecessors, to express my sincere gratitude for their efforts and appreciation for their human and diplomatic skills. The Lord has already called many of them to himself. To those who are still among us - Archbishop Antonio Franco and Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto - we wish them a long life.

An Apostolic Delegation which witnessed the "pilgrimages" of four Popes, which are among the most significant historical events of these decades.
The first Pope in history to return to the land of our Lord Jesus Christ was Blessed Paul VI (4-6 January 1964). On 5 January 1964, there was the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras.

The second Pope to visit the Holy Land was St John Paul II. A "Jubilee Pilgrimage" made from 20 to 26 March 2000. There were important and repeated calls for dialogue and reconciliation between the peoples who at the time raised great hopes and a wave of optimism but, unfortunately, they were progressively disturbed by divergent events.

The third pilgrim Pope, from 8 to 15 May 2009, was Benedict XVI. In his farewell speech from the Ben Gurion airport, he addressed the people of the Holy Land saying: "Let there be a lasting peace based on justice, let there be a true and healthy reconciliation. Act in such a way that the two-state solution becomes a reality, and does not remain a dream".

Pope Francis was the fourth Pope to visit the Holy Land from 24 to 26 May 2014, in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the encounter between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras. In the joint statement, Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew urged "all Christians to promote an authentic dialogue with Judaism, Islam and other religious traditions".

Mgr Leopoldo Girelli concluded his speech by claiming how: the whole Vatican diplomacy serves the mission of the Pope, which is essentially a spiritual mission with different objectives, and which include the defense of religious freedom, human dignity and human rights, as well as the promotion of reconciliation and peace and the protection of the environment.