Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan Visits Bethlehem University

Bethlehem, Palestine – On Tuesday, 31 January Bethlehem University was pleased to welcome Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York. On pilgrimage before his February 18th appointment as Cardinal, where Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the ceremonies, Dolan felt the Holy Land was the best fit for him at this time: “For us it’s basically an occasion for prayer and spiritual growth. There’s nowhere that He has told us about Himself more than here so if you want to learn more about Him, you come here.”

Vice Chancellor Br. Peter Bray welcomed the entourage and affirmed the importance of such visits, “Bethlehem University is an oasis of peace and hope and when we feel the love shared with us by our brothers in Christ, we feel even more hopeful that we can continue doing what we do; creating the future leaders of Palestine.”

Visibly heartened by the positive atmosphere and Palestinian style hospitality within Bethlehem University’s walls, Dolan lavished praise on the Brothers and the local Christian community for being able to create a space of learning and growth: “We’ve come to Bethlehem because it’s the birthplace of Jesus, who is the most important person in our lives and we’ve come here because it reminds us the Church in the Holy Land is not just a museum and not just a historical fact but is living and still goes on so the work of Jesus continues in and through the Church. So if you want to see where that’s alive, come to a place like Bethlehem University.”

Dolan expressed solidarity with the University, knowing that as a Catholic leader, he is aware of the challenges the largest private school system in the United States faces and knows what a challenge it is to bring different types of people together in one place, “Christian leaders strive especially to make our religion a source a cause of peace, truth, reconciliation, and justice and sometimes that is frustrating. But when we come to a place like this, and you see what Bethlehem University does to bring people together – who become not only schoolmates but friends – that is religion at its best.”

Father Arthur Mastrolia, from the Church of St. Paul’s in Congers, visiting the Holy Land for the third time, was honored to have Archbishop Dolan with them and also to be able to see another side of the Holy Land that he had never seen. “I love the Holy Land and love it here but this is the first time I experienced Palestinian life. What I’ve gotten is a clearer understanding of the Palestinian plight, learned through the witness of our Catholic clergy and religious, who live and work here in the Holy Land. We’re particularly touched by the aspirations of the students and by their desire to lead happy, productive lives.”

Brother Jack Curran, Vice President for Development and himself a New York state native, was thrilled to welcome the Cardinal-designate to the campus. “Myself a long-time member of the Catholic educational system, I am joyful to be able to share with Cardinal-designate Dolan and so many New York clergy, not only how challenging it is to educate the youth of the Holy Land but to be able to, through the devotion and support of great men like the Archbishop Dolan, continue to face the challenges of educating a population under a military occupation.”

“But when we come to a place like this, and you see what Bethlehem University does to bring people together – who become not only schoolmates but friends – that is religion at its best.”

After enjoying a savory inter-faith lunch in the University’s Hotel Management training restaurant, where the Archbishop Dolan and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams dined together, Archbishop Dolan shared his appreciation for the presence and work of the University though he, in his infectiously gregarious way, stated that he had one major concern, “…and that is that you have Brothers from Brooklyn teaching these students English.”

Clearly touched by the opportunity to talk to Bethlehem University students and hear first hand about their daily struggle to get an education, Archbishop Dolan closed his speech saying, “Every time I come here, I leave with hope, the hope that radiates from the beautiful students. Thanks be to God for Bethlehem University.”