JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.
This week again: Israel
“Church in the heart of Jewish society”
Pastoral centre for migrants opened in Tel Aviv – Patriarch Twal: “Thanks to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ for its help”
By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
With a ceremonial pontifical mass the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, inaugurated the first Catholic pastoral centre of migrants in Israel on Saturday in Tel Aviv. Those present included the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, and the Ambassador of the Philippines in Israel. Twal expressly thanked the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) for supporting the project. The patriarch’s own words were: “I wish the benefactors of ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ could be here to share the people’s joy at the new centre. I thank all donors from my heart on their behalf. May God bless them.”
Father David Neuhaus SJ, co-ordinator of the Patriarchate for migrants’ pastoral care and initiator of the project, thanked “Aid to the Church in Need” for its support. “It would have been impossible to found the ‘Our Lady of Valor’ Pastoral Centre without the generous help of various charities, including as always ‘Aid to the Church in Need’.’ Aid to the Church in Need’ has accompanied the development of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Church in Israel very closely and is now also helping the migrants. We are particularly grateful to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ and pray for all benefactors.”
Father Neuhaus stressed that the Church of the Holy Land, which had to date been dominated mainly by the Arabic-speaking Palestinian Christians, was becoming much more diverse in its composition. “The migrants are making the Christian presence more complex since many of them come from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and live within the Israeli-Jewish, Hebrew-speaking society. Although they remain on the margins of this society, they identify with it and their children grow up speaking Hebrew. The Church is now called upon to establish itself where it previously had no presence: in the Jewish quarter where the migrants live, in the heart of Israeli-Jewish society,” Neuhaus explained.
The people there are now very grateful for the new centre. Lourdes, a Filipino woman working as a home nurse, is committed to helping during church services in the community. On the edge of the inauguration ceremony she told ACN: “For us the centre is home. Here we meet our compatriots and we can pray. I’m happy we have it.”
The new pastoral centre in the south of Tel Aviv serves the community of Catholic migrants in Israel, who comprise mainly guest workers from the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka, as well as asylum seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The number of guest workers has increased sharply since, following the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation after 2000, most of the Palestinians who had been working previously in Israel were no longer granted a work permit. Many of the jobs they performed previously have now been taken over by guest workers.
Today about 40,000 Filipinos alone live in Israel with limited-term employment contracts. Like Lourdes, they work mostly in nursing occupations. The Church sees the catechetical instruction and cultivation of a religious identity among migrant children as a special challenge. They attend Hebrew-speaking schools and receive no religious instruction there. With the help of “Aid to the Church in Need” a number of Hebrew-language books have therefore been published for religious instruction outside school.