Archbishop of Canterbury ruffles feathers on visit to Holy Land

Justin Welby is catching some flak for not visiting Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem and surrounding villages on his first visit to the Holy Land since become Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Guardian reports:

Palestinian Christians have expressed disappointment that the archbishop of Canterbury did not visit their beleaguered communities to offer solidarity on his first trip to the Holy Land since taking office.

Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican church worldwide, travelled across the imposing separation wall between Jerusalem and the West Bank on Thursday to open an Anglican medical centre in Ramallah. But his three-day schedule did not include a visit to Bethlehem and its surrounding villages, where Christian families have suffered severe economic hardship as a result of the barrier, and many have left the Holy Land.

“Palestinian Christians would have expected a close interest from one of the most important Christian figures in the world,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a Palestinian official. “Christianity was born in Palestine, and the followers of Jesus Christ are suffering. These people expected something more.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian politician and an Anglican, said the archbishop should have “reached out to Palestinian Christians. He should meet people and talk to them to see the impact of occupation and confiscation [of land].”

Lambeth Palace reports via Episcopal News Service that Welby did speak at a reception in Jerusalem hosted by Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani. The reception was attended by local Christians leaders from different denominations, along with diplomats, ambassadors and Palestinian civil society leaders.The ENS story states:

Finding ways of living together after the “great traumas and tragedies of so many years” is “a huge challenge,” the archbishop told Christian leaders gathered in the Bishop’s Peace Garden at the city’s Anglican Cathedral.

But “there is no other way than finding each others’ humanity, recognizing it, and seeing in it the image of God,” he added.

See ENS story here.

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