WASHINGTON (March 26, 1999) -- With thousands of pilgrims expected to visit the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year 2000, the Bishops' Administrative Board this week approved guidelines for pilgrims designed to make their visit "an occasion to build solidarity between American pilgrims and the Church in the Holy Land."
"These guidelines are intended as a practical tool to help those traveling to the Holy Land on pilgrimage to enrich their experience by gaining an appreciation for the living reality of the Christian -- as well as Muslim and Jewish -- communities there," explained Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark (NJ), Chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference Committee on International Policy which issued the guidelines.
According to the guidelines, "Solidarity with the Christians of the Holy Land is particularly necessary at the present time. The pressures faced by Christians of all denominations throughout the Middle East region and the ensuing emigration are major concerns for the bishops of the region."
The guidelines also emphasize that "pilgrimage can contribute to reconciliation between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and the three monotheistic religions in the Holy Land: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam."
The guidelines recommend, among other things, that:
- Pilgrimage should be planned as a religious exercise, as distinct from religious tourism and study tours;
- Pilgrims should be led by an accredited spiritual animator or Christian licensed guide who appreciates and respects the Christian tradition and pilgrimage as a distinctive religious undertaking;
- Pilgrimages should include opportunities to be in contact with and to develop bonds of solidarity with the local Church, as well as the local Muslim and Jewish communities;
- In a spirit of interfaith understanding, pilgrims could visit shrines and holy sites of Muslims and Jews, in addition to the Christian sites.
The guidelines were developed in consultation with and reflect the experience with pilgrimages of the USCC Office of International Justice and Peace, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Catholic Relief Services, and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem was also consulted in their preparation.
The guidelines are available from the USCC Office of International Justice and Peace, 3211 Fourth Street NE, Washington, DC 20017, or by calling 202-541-3199 (ph), or by fax at 202-541-3339. They are also available on the World Wide Web at: www.nccbuscc.org/comm/archives/99-070a.shtml.