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People in the Holy Land Still ‘Open to the Dream’ of Reconciliation, Cardinal Dolan Says

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, center, holds his crozier during Mass at the Our Lady of Peace chapel in the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, a pontifical institute dedicated to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, in Jerusalem April 13, 2024. The cardinal was reported safe amid Iran launching an unprecedented wave of missile and drone attacks on Israel later that evening. (Photo: OSV News/Sinan Abu Mayzer, Reuters)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — When Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently met with victims of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and families of hostages taken during it, he said what stood out was that in a “land of broken hearts,” people will not give up on peace. 

“Many of the people in the village that was attacked were involved in peace movements and initiatives of reconciliation with Palestinians, and they loved it and cherished it and they do not want to give up,” Cardinal Dolan said in an April 16 video posted to X. 

“If anybody were to have a reason for hate and vengeance it would be for these people, but they are still open to the dream, to the reconciliation,” Dolan added. “This inspires me more than anything else.” 

Cardinal Dolan said he met with the victims and families of the hostages on April 15. The visits were a part of an April 12-18 trip he took to the Holy Land in his capacity as chair of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency established in 1926 to accompany and support Eastern churches in their humanitarian and pastoral work. 

Cardinal Dolan and those he traveled with were forced to take shelter in Bethlehem on the second night of the trip when Iran launched a missile attack against Israel. He posted a video on X on April 14 saying that he and those he traveled with “feel safe and secure.” No changes were made to Cardinal Dolan’s trip schedule as a result of the attack. 

He began his visit to the Holy Land with prayer and dinner in Jerusalem alongside a few rabbi friends, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Cardinal Pierrbatista Pizzaballa, and CNEWA president Msgr. Peter Vaccari. 

“What a beautiful, prayerful, joyful, fraternal way for us to start our week here,” Cardinal Dolan said of the evening in an April 13 video posted to X. 

Before they were forced to take shelter on April 13, Cardinal Dolan said he visited a center, run by Catholic sisters, that takes in abandoned babies. He noted how they told him that every time they receive or find a new baby to care for “it is Christmas all over again, as another one of God’s children is born [and] we have the honor to love them so tenderly and care for them. 

“Those are messages of inspiration that you get here in the Holy Land that I think have given people the resilience and the hope for which they’re famous,” he added.

Part of the reason for Cardinal Dolan’s trip was to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Mission of Palestine. The organization, founded by Pope Pius XII in 1949, serves as CNEWA’s operating agency in the Middle East. Together, the two organization’s work through the local Church to offer aid to all in need, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. 

In a homily honoring the pontifical mission during the trip, Cardinal Dolan thanked those in the pews for the hope that they gave him. 

“Last night, these days are days of distress and difficulty for you because of the tensions in these sacred acres of the Lord’s vineyard,” Cardinal Dolan said. 

“You have every earthly reason to be afraid, to be sad, but when we walked into this church this morning I did not see fear, I did not see sadness, I heard you sing ‘Allelujah, Allelujah.’ I saw you smile, I saw your eyes welcoming us and that, my friends, gives us hope and for that I say ‘Thank you,’” Cardinal Dolan added.