The Order's work in the Holy Land
Fr Kevin Laheen and Tom Ryan RHA at one of our supported projects
Pope Francis in his address to the Consulta of the Order in November 2018 said:
"It is a good sign that your initiatives in the field of training and health care are open to all, regardless of the communities they belong to and the religion they profess. In this way you help pave the way to the knowledge of Christian values, to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, mutual respect and mutual understanding. In other words, with your meritorious commitment, you too offer your contribution to the construction of the path that will lead, we all hope, to the achievement of peace throughout the region…….. Then, with regard to your mission in the world, do not forget that you are not a philanthropic entity committed to promoting the material and social improvement of recipients. You are called to place the evangelical love of your neighbour as the final aim of your works, to witness everywhere the goodness and care with which God loves everyone. The admission into your Order of bishops, priests and deacons is absolutely not an honour. It is part of their tasks of pastoral service to assist those among you who have a role of responsibility by providing opportunities for community and liturgical prayer at every level, continuous spiritual opportunities and catechesis for ongoing formation and for the growth of all the members of the Order”.
Since the establishment of the Lieutenancy in 1986, Irish members and their supporters have donated over €4m to the Holy Land, funding capital and current projects in schools, the seminary, humanitarian activities, and financing the education of a Maronite seminarian in Rome.
Member in donating to the Holy Land are animated by the Purposes of the Order.
- To strengthen in its members the practice of Christian life, in absolute fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff and according to the teachings of the Church, observing as its foundation the principle of charity of which the Order is a fundamental means for assistance to the Holy Land.
- To sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with which the Order maintains traditional ties.
- To support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in those lands, interesting in this work the Catholics scattered throughout the world, united in charity by the symbol of the Order, and also all Christian brothers.
- To sustain the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
The Holy Land is defined as Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Occupied Territories, Cyprus and the Kingdom of Jordan, all governed spiritually by His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, currently Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
Most Christians in the Holy Land are Arab. Christians are more or less 350,000 out of 13 million people living in the three countries. The world-wide Order donates circa US$14m per annum. In the period since the inception of the Lieutenancy we have donated in excess of €4m to the Holy Land.
Today the Christian population has dwindled to about 50,000 Christians in the Palestinian territories (about 1.5 percent of the population) and about 153,000 (2010) Christians in Israel (approximately two percent). Estimates suggest that about 1,000 Christians a year are leaving their homeland.
According to the 2003 Israeli census approx 98% of Israel’s Christians live in urban settlements with 20% in Nazareth, 12% in Haifa, and 10% in Jerusalem. 60% of all Christians live in Northern Israel.
The Irish contribution to the Order's work in the Holy Land
Irish funding has been provided to projects in Tila ei Ali, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, in Bethlehem to the Holy Family Children’s Home, a youth hostel, the maternity hospital, the University and a hostel for girls attending the University; Haifa, Naour School in Jordan; Nazareth; in Kerak support to the Parish and the School; Ramah School in Galilee and Zebabdeh. In many instances members of the Lieutenancy have visited the Irish sponsored projects whilst on pilgrimage.
The Lieutenancy is a registered charity (No. CHY8617). Its financial statements are audited annually by a non member registered auditor and are available on the website of the Charity Regulator www.charitiesregulator.ie .
Details on some Projects supported by the Lieutenancy over the last 30 odd years.
Holy Family Children’s Home, Bethlehem
In considering what would be the most appropriate way to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Lieutenancy in 2011, providence in the person of Comdt. Frank Hearns came up with the solution, children, the future of the Holy Land!
In 1905, an Orphanage and crèche for abandoned children was founded by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and. The place became a home for these children and a shelter for mothers in crisis and it is called Holy Family Children’s Home. The mission of the nuns is to fight for the right to life of children, to guarantee a safe shelter and safe delivery for the babies and mothers.
The age of the target group in the Holy Family Children’s Home is from 0- 6 years. The children are welcomed into the Home regardless of their religion, race or background. They are a gift from the Lord. Who can reject such a gift?
As a result of this fact women who managed to conceal their pregnancy had to abandon the child, many other women lost their lives while trying to get rid of the baby, others were not lucky enough to conceal it and they were killed with their infants by their families.
Many children are born with malformations and retardations because of the lack of good prenatal care and poor conditions surrounding the deliveries. As a result of the increasing social problems, the Home expanded its services to receive children who live in crises, children from broken families, divorced parents, drug addicts, etc.
The children have a boarding section well arranged to meet the needs of lives. The home is divided into rooms according to their age group. The Crèche is an address for children who live in danger, who are victims of domestic violence and violence in general.
The children from outside the Crèche receive lunch with our children every day from Monday until Saturday. It has four teachers working with the children in the kindergarten, beside the supervisor and the trainer. It implements its program under the supervision of Bethlehem University Education Faculty. A paediatrician, a child psychologist, and a social worker add their professional expertise, guiding the development of each child.
The number of children is increasing, and cases of abandoned children are even harsher than before. The level of violence and irresponsibility is higher in the area. Those most affected are the children and women.
All of us are aware of the need. The present situation and the future are vague and unpredictable. Violence is increasing and ignorance is one of the predominant causes of the present general situation.
Chev. Frank Hearns who turned 70 years old during his 2011 tour was on the roads of Europe for a month starting from the Carmel of St. Joseph of Malahide. He cycled from Malahide, accompanied by a friend, Blaise O’Rourke to Bethlehem commencing on 5 June and concluded in Bethlehem on Monday 4 July. They covered 3,200 kms in 30 days over 6 countries. They had to change one tyre which resulted in a wheel being given free. They first crossed the Channel by boat to France, then travelled the roads of Italy and Greece before flying to Tel Aviv. They then resumed traveling on bicycles to Bethlehem. They were welcomed by Sister Sophie Boueri, then Director of the Holy Family Children’s Home, who received €110,000 from Frank in donations collected from the Irish Dames, Knights and friends.
“Everywhere, we were met with exceptional hospitality and kindness in the countries we visited, and there are many stories to tell,” said Frank, “a Greek who, seeing my T-shirt in the colors of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre offered me hospitality for the night.”
The event had been carefully prepared, while leaving much to improvisation and surprises along the route. It was an experience like a real pilgrimage by the Irish Knights, marked by daily prayer and Sunday Mass as food on the long road to the Holy Land.
On his arrival in Jerusalem, Bishop William Shomali, then Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem warmly welcomed him expressing friendship and recognition of the local Church saying “The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre is a great help for our community. Its members are generous with their ongoing support and evangelisation, may it continue along this path.”
“The journey is often more important than the goal in itself ,” said Frank, “and with all my heart I sincerely thank those who helped me make this pilgrimage possible.”
The most recent visit to the Orphanage was in November 2019 when the Lieutenancy made a donation to the help the running of the Orphanage. In all over €250k has been donated in recent years.
Five-day old baby
Other Projects supported in recent years
Jish/ Gush Halav
Jish is a Maronite Village in Northern Israel a few miles from Lebanon’s Border. It is a small town of 3,000 and has two Maronite priests. With 65 percent of its residents belonging to the Maronite Church, Jish is the only village in Israel with a majority Maronite population. Muslims constitute about 35 percent of the residents, with a smattering of Melkite Christians making up the tiny remainder.
In 2019 Ireland funded the remodelling of a youth centre and a library centre
Creche in Bethany, East Jerusalem, backing onto the Separation Wall
Bethany was sealed off by the Separation Wall in 2004. The Comboni Sisters started their mission in Bethany in 1966. St Mary’s Kindergarten now hosts 48 children, most of whom are Muslims, coming from families living under social and economic hardship. The Sisters are immediately adjacent to the Separation Wall having to regularly endure tear gas, Molotov cocktails and stone throwing. They are striving to provide a pleasant and welcoming environment for the children to stay as a witness for love, peace and harmony.
The funds made available in 2019 by the Lieutenancy provided a fire-proof roof for part of the play area and renovated two existing classrooms.
|Members with the children 2019|
Birzeit Parish and School Hall
Birzeit, also Bir Zeit, is a Palestinian town north of Ramallah in the central West Bank. It is 73km north of Jerusalem. Its population in the 2007 census was 4,529.
A host of projects and programs have changed the lives of the people in the town and surrounding villages. The 2019 donation will remodel the School Hall from an auditorium to a flat floor building. This will be used both by the school for lectures, graduation ceremonies etc; it will also be used by the Parish church communities, scouts etc.
|Students in Bir Zeit School with members of the Lieutenancy|
Since the dawn of Christianity, Christian communities have flourished in and around the provincial towns of Karak, Madaba, Salt, and Amman, while the growth of Christianity in the Middle East has nurtured a bond with the Hashemite Kingdom. The Christian population is between 5% and 6%. In Jordan, about half the Christians are Jordanian, and the other half are Iraqi.
To maintain the Christian presence in the Holy Land, the Churches consider a good education system in Christian schools to be essential. Therefore, the Churches themselves manage
- 28 schools in Palestine
- 31 schools in Israel and
- 44 schools in Jordan.
The Latin Patriarchate is committed to offering quality instruction to all, girls and boys, Christian and Muslim alike. The Patriarchate has a network of 45 schools and 34 kindergartens and employs 1550 teachers and support staff; 95% are lay and 84% are Christian. They operate within the approved educational programme set by the respective governments. In addition to the standard curriculum, schools offer such programs as psychological assistance, help for special-needs students, catechism, French, biology. Additional classes are provided in music, arts, ecological awareness, peace and social responsibility, and schools offer sports in which boys and girls participate.
Unlike schools in Israel, private schools in Palestine and Jordan receive little financial support from education ministries.
Patriarch Twal inaugurated the new 450 seater Church of Stella Maris in Aqaba, Jordan, on Friday, December 14, 2012. For the first time, the Christians of Aqaba celebrated Christmas in their Church. The reason a church was built is that Aqaba is a city of the future.
Numerous Jordanians come to live in Aqaba where they find work, among them Christian families. Aqaba is a strategic city by its position: a port city, positioned on the border of Israel and not far from Egypt, it attracts Jordanians and also offers work to many migrants. Philippine and Sri Lankan Catholics, numbering about 300, join the local Christians who represent 2% of the city’s population. The new Church of Stella Maria, situated a few minutes from the sea, is also “a witness and a spiritual place of welcome” for Christians in transit, explains the Patriarch, in particular for the many tourists who come to swim, drawn by the Red Sea and the Wadi Rum.
|A large hall was built under the church (pictured) for this purpose, to accommodate Christians celebrations: marriages, first communions and others. It will also contribute to parochial life, developing prayer groups for the young, the Legion of Mary, the scout movement, etc. The lieutenancy contributed significantly to the building costs.||Hall was made under the church||Stella Maris Church in Aqaba|
Part finance a new printing plant and the transfer of machinery for the Patriarchate at just outside Jerusalem. It has printed the new Catechism, pastoral letters, the diocesan paper etc. This Project also provided much needed employment.
On the boundaries of the town of Bethlehem and Beit-Jala House stands St. Theresa’s (a university residence for girls), on the road to Hebron, the Lieutenancy assisted its conversion into a hostel for about 40 girl students of the University whose homes are a considerable distance away.
a Maronite cleric undertaking post graduate studies.
In January 2009 following appeal from the Grand Master.to the world wide Order, Ireland sent a sizable donation to assist in humanitarian aid following the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
Purchase of land for a school. Hashimi is situated in a densely populated area in the east of Amman not far from the centre of downtown.
This continues year in year out. In the humanitarian area, the four core programs of social assistance; medical emergencies; medicines; and educational support have been complimented with additional programs of assistance targeting three specific groups being Iraqi refugees in Jordan; unemployed youth in Gaza; and marginalized families in East Jerusalem. Through these funds, hundreds of families were supported, though temporarily in some cases to enable them to live a dignified life. New programs are being designed to target the chronic social cases to enroll them in empowerment programs to assist them stand on their own feet in the future. Ireland has supported fellow Christians in East Jerusalem and assisted medical provision.
An example of how these donations was utilized is as follows: K.A. is a 5-year-old little girl from Beit Jala. Her family consists of 4 members who live in their own house. Her father works as a teacher at the Latin Beit Jala School. Her mother works in the Good Shepherd School, where the family total income is about 7,500 NIS per month. The family has a loan from the bank and they have monthly payments. K. suffers from congenital problems in her left eye. K underwent several operations in her eye, but her situation did not improve. In order not to lose her sight she underwent a very critical and sensitive surgery at Hadasah Hospital and because they are from the West bank and have no insurance for Israeli hospital they were forced to pay the whole amount. The total cost of her operation was NIS 28,450 (€7,300) which is a big amount for a family with a minimum income. In cooperation with Christian organizations the LPJ was able to contribute to help K. with a total of 5, 000 NIS to allow the little girl to undergo the surgery and to return home in better conditions.
Includes the administrative cost of the Patriarchate, funds to meet the cost of maintaining the Latin Seminary, to meet the expenses of the clergy and their workers, in all the Patriarch, 4 bishops, 86 priests and 118 nuns; and help for the schools, which includes kindergartens.
The erection of a secondary school. Kerak is located in the Kingdom of Jordan, 124km south of Amman. It is the largest town in South Jordan. The Parish dates to 1871. The school was built in the neighbourhood of the Christian villages of Ader, Smakieh [the only village in Jordan inhabited solely by Catholics - Latin and Melkite rites with a population of 1500], Rabbas and Hmoud. Currently 800 pupils. A sizable donation, in conjunction with Lieutenancies in France and Canada Montreal and the Grand Magisterium was made for a parish church. The parish church is dedicated to “Our Lady of the Rosary” and is the only one in Jordan to have a decorated wooden ceiling.
Madaba Schools Project
Madaba is a medium-sized city of 60,000 in Jordan, located 25km southwest of Amman and 20 minutes from Mt. Nebo. It has become known as the "City of the Mosaics" for the many Byzantine mosaics that have been uncovered throughout the city. In Madaba Balad (close to the city) there will be a mixed school for boys and girls up to grade 3 and a girls’ school from grade 4 to 12, while Madaba Ma’in will become a single sex school for boys from grade 4 to 12. The works (construction and plant) included the electro-mechanical systems, 32 classrooms, 1 library, 4 laboratories and 30 WC units. The total internal works area is over 3500 sq. mts., while external works amount to 1800 sq. mts. of walls and roof plus 1500 sq. mts. of outdoor facilities and playground.
Part payment of the tuition fees of the Christian students attending Naour School, which was founded in 1924. The school family is of both sexes and has both a Christian and Muslim student base and teaching staff. The School caters from kindergarten and Primary ie ages 4 to 11. The Lieutenancy recently funded the capital expansion of the School. This involves an extension of around 95 sq mt to the ground floor, to host the new Computer and Science laboratories. The members of the Lieutenancy have visited the School, its students and teachers on many occasions.
A donation in excess of €100,000 to this school, which is in Northern Israel: the School was established in 1912. Has 377 students of whom 329 are Christian (2008). Rameh itself is entirely made up of Israeli Arabs and has a mostly Christian and Druze population as well as a smaller Muslim population. A further expansion is being undertaken currently.
The Patriarchal Seminary which was established in 1852 is located at Beit Jala. So far, over 280 priests have been ordained from it. The average number ordained is 2. Geographically, two thirds of the students come from Jordan and the other third come from Palestine and Israel. Ireland financed an extension to the Patriarchal Seminary. This is an important project in view of an increasing number of adult vocations. The applicants who enter the Major Seminary need to attend a one-year preparatory course (concentrating on furthering the practice of prayer, communal living and Christian virtues). During this time they need to be housed close to, yet separate from, the students in the Upper Seminary.Currently there are 32 minor seminarians and 18 major seminarians,
Tla’ Al ‘Ali
The building of a Church, hall and presbytery This is situated in a district to the north east of Amman in a mixed economic area where there is some unemployment.
“Our faithful and the other Palestinian citizens aspire to sovereignty and independence. In the land of Christ, they are not foreigners. It is their homeland”. Unity in Diversity, first pastoral letter of Patriarch Twal May 2009.
In 2017 one of our members, Comdt Frank Hearns, undertook a charity cycle from Malahide to Rome in the context of his 75th. birthday. Its purpose was in support of “the children of Aleppo”. They were remitted to Father Ibrahim al Sabagh ofm who is the parish priest of the Latin community based there.
This was used for summer camps for 350 children in 2018. As they had not had the opportunity to play during the war, their was a substantial leap in their scholastic education. They also had cooking courses and courses in dancing. It also financed another 5 summer camps as well as camps for 600 adults and for more than 400 university students. Many of the participants had never left Aleppo due to combat at all, or for many years in the case of adults. Food paks were provided 400 families during a period of four months for which the first beneficiaries were children.