Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese and 18 other American bishops, including 12 active bishops, will travel to the Middle East later this month in what is being billed as the Bishops’ Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace.
As bishop, Hubbard made a similar trek to the Holy Land in the name of peace in 2009.
“We are fully aware of the complexities involved in this long-standing conflict, and we certainly have no magic-wand solution to propose,” Hubbard said in a statement. “However, in addition to visiting the many sites in the Holy Land sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, we will also be meeting with religious and governmental leaders both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“We hope to learn more about their perspectives and desire to communicate a simple message: Peace is possible, and prayer is a pathway to peace.”
Pope Francis met in June with Israeli President Shimon Peres and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in the Vatican Gardens following a trip to Israel and the Palestinian homeland.
“Peacemaking calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict; yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreement and no to acts of provocation,” the Pope said at the time.
It was announced Tuesday that the Pope will again meet with Peres on Thursday.
“In this decades-long Israeli-Palestinian impasse, Pope Francis is looking to God to get beyond human conflict,” Hubbard said. “As the Jesuit Father David Neuhaus, the parochial vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel, stated, ‘Pope Francis seeks to play a spiritual, not a political, role. He is not a politician or a diplomat. He is offering time to reflect on the reality of God and hopes that might open some energy.’
“It is with this vision and spirit that I and the other bishops embark upon this pilgrimage,” Hubbard added.
In December 2009, Hubbard was part of another 19-person delegation, this one from the National Inter-Religious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East. Hubbard is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and previously served on the Vatican’s Secretariat for Non-Christians, which is now the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Two other New York bishops, the Most Rev. Richard Malone of Buffalo and Most Rev. William Murphy of Rockville Centre, will be part of the delegation that will be in the Middle East from Sept. 10-19 and is slated to include visits and prayer at holy sites in Jerusalem, Galilee, Nazareth and Bethlehem. The bishops will pray alongside the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Armenian Apostolic Christians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Evangelicals, Muslims and Jews.
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is leading the pilgrimage
“Our pilgrimage could not come at a more critical moment,” Pates said in a statement. “The conflict between Israel and Hamas, the latest of far too many cycles of violence, has seriously eroded hope for peace in the Holy Land. Prayer for peace is needed now more than ever.”