Jerusalem Bishop William Shomali, newly appointed to the Latin Patriarchate of Jordan, says that although Christians are a very small minority in Jordan, through the Catholic schools, hospitals and charities their presence is strongly felt in the communities.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, after consultation with the Bishops
Council and the Consultative Council of the Latin Patriarchate,
announced Feb. 8 that he named Bishop Shomali the next Patriarchal Vicar
Auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem since 2010, Bishop Shomali told CNA
Feb. 9 that while he will make several visits to Jordan over the next
few months, including one for a bishops' conference, he won't
permanently take over in Jordan until a few months from now, at which
point he will reside in Amman.
Although Christians are a very small minority in the area – they only
make up about two percent of the overall population, he said – their
social status and presence, relatively speaking, has a much stronger
“The Catholic Church, although a minority, is very active through
Catholic schools, Caritas, and other institutions,” he said. “We also
have Catholic hospitals in Jordan, so our presence in the health and
social and educational sectors is strong.”
This doesn't mean Bishop Shomali won't face challenges in Jordan, though.
The issues, he said, are not new ones, but ones the area has been
facing for some time: mainly pertaining to the economy, refugees and the
continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The presence of two million refugees” from Syria in Jordan, he said,
presents a challenge on a humanitarian level, although the Catholic
organization Caritas is very involved on that level.
Jordan is also dealing with an ongoing economic crisis, which
significantly affects institutions of higher education, such as the
“Another challenge is that the diocese is divided into many sectors:
Jordan, Palestine, Israel,” he explained. “So we have to care for the
unity of the diocese, despite the political and economic differences and
Asked his response to the possibility of a U.S. embassy move from
Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, which U.S. bishops condemned just earlier this
week, Bishop Shomali said that the bishops in the Holy Land are also
united in considering it a bad idea.
“We feel that if the embassy is transferred, it will be a handicap
against the two-state solution,” he said, and that they really “don't
advise Mr. Trump to do that.”
Not all bad news, the bishop said that Jordan does have a number of
young and vibrant priests which helps to make his job much easier. “On
the positive side, we have a younger clergy, very dynamic, and very
orthodox, which makes it easier for the bishop to work,” he said.