Ed. This article, written by Andrew, which appeared in The Hebrew Catholic, #79, Winter 2004, was partly based upon an article that appeared in French in Ha-Mikhtav (The Letter), Paris, No. 28, October 2003, edited by Marie-Thérèse Huguet..

A Hebrew Cathlic Bishop of Jerusalem
Andrew Sholl

Today, Sunday, the 9th November 2003, the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica of Christ the Saviour, the seat of the Holy Father as Bishop of Rome, should be a great day of rejoicing for all Hebrew Catholics, indeed all Catholics.

Why especially Hebrew Catholics? For today, near Abu Gosh in Israel, will take place the Episcopal Ordination of Father John Baptist Gurion (“lion cub” in Hebrew), until now Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary of the Resurrection, Abu Gosh, and from this day, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, a Hebrew Catholic of Sephardic Jewish origin and background, who came to Israel in 1976.

As Auxiliary to Patriarch Michael Sabbah, himself the first Palestinian Arab “Latin” Patriarch of the Holy City, the new Hebrew-speaking Bishop will take charge of the relatively small, but significant, Hebrew-language Catholic community of Israel.

There are wonderful milestones that our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II initiated when he named Fr. Gurion to the Episcopate on the 14th August 2003. I am sure the Holy Father would have been conscious of the fact that since the middle of the second century, no Hebrew Catholic was named a Bishop of Jerusalem, certainly not knowingly! Why was this?

We know from history that at least five of the first Bishops of Jerusalem beginning with James the Less (a cousin of the Lord Jesus, or as Scripture says, “the brother of the Lord”) were Hebrew Catholics, or to be more precise at the time, “of the Way”. Indeed, it was not until the Bar Kochba Rebellion was put down in blood by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, that Jerusalem, renamed Aelia Capitolina (Aelius being Hadrian’s family name), was forbidden to Israelites in the middle of the second century A.D. Thus no Hebrew Catholic was henceforward appointed to Jerusalem until today! Sissu ve-simchu … rejoice and be glad!

Let us pray earnestly that Bishop Gurion’s elevation to the Episcopate, albeit as Auxiliary Bishop to Latin Patriarch Sabbah, will bear a mighty harvest in the extremely tense situation in the Holy Land, and especially in Jerusalem.

It is not without significance that Father Gurion chose to be consecrated Bishop in the Church of Our Lady, Ark of the Covenant, near Abu Gosh, where the original Ark of the Covenant stayed 1,000 years before Christ, before David had it brought into Jerusalem with dancing and great joy. The original Ark was made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, and contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, whereas Mary is the living Ark of the Covenant, giving us Jesus, our Saviour, today’s Feastday.

The new Bishop is already quite well known in Israel: especially as a man of peace, having made his Abbey a veritable oasis of peace, where Jews and Arabs, Israelis and others, including Christians from everywhere met and dialogued. Indeed, this year he was awarded the prize for Judeo-Christian Friendship, something that was largely well-received in Israel, as was his nomination as Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem.

May the Lord bless Bishop Gurion and give him the wisdom of Solomon in this most difficult part of His Vineyard.

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