Cardinal Dolan Safe in Jerusalem Amid Iran's Unprecedented Attack on Israel

| 04/14/2024

By: Our Sunday Visitor

The cardinal is making this pastoral visit in his role as chairman of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which supports the Catholic Church in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, center, offers Mass at the Our Lady of Peace chapel in the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center April 13, 2024.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, center, offers Mass at the Our Lady of Peace chapel in the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center April 13, 2024. The cardinal was reportedly safe in Jerusalem amid Iran's unprecedented missile and drone attacks on Israel that began later that evening. (OSV News photo/Sinan Abu Mayzer, Reuters)

(OSV News) — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York is presently safe in Jerusalem amid Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel, where air raid sirens in the late hours of April 13 alerted the country to incoming drones and missiles.

Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the Archdiocese of New York, who is accompanying the cardinal on the scheduled April 12-18 trip to Israel and Palestine, reported the delegation’s status to OSV News in Jerusalem in the early morning hours of April 14.

The cardinal is making this pastoral visit in his role as chairman of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which supports the Catholic Church in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. The visit marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, established by Pope Pius XII in 1949 and placed since its inception under the administration of CNEWA.

Israel’s military reported that Iran launched more than 200 attack drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles against Israel overnight April 13-14. Most were intercepted before they could reach Israel’s airspace, but some got through. The Associated Press reported Iran’s attacks injured at least one person — a young Bedouin child — in southern Israel and also caused damage to a military base.

Iran’s bombardment was in retaliation for an April 1 airstrike in Syria that killed two Iranian generals in an Iranian consulate. Iran has accused Israel of the attack, but Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.

In a video posted to social media earlier in the day April 13 by The Good Newsroom, the New York Archdiocese’s media outlet, Cardinal Dolan walked in sunglasses through a walled street in Jerusalem as he described his first 24 hours there.

“Shabbat Shalom, folks,” said the cardinal, cheerfully wishing viewers a “peaceful Sabbath,” explaining that it was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. “We’re off to a great start.”

In the video, the cardinal said he spent Friday evening sharing a Sabbath dinner with two rabbis and Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. He noted he was on his way to visit with Cardinal Pizzaballa again, would celebrate a Mass for CNEWA, and then attend a luncheon.

Cardinal Dolan said CNEWA is “giving tremendous humanitarian and pastoral aid to the church in this sacred soil, for the educational, the charitable, the health care. And they don’t ask for baptismal certificates, so they’re serving Muslims, are serving Jews, they’re serving Catholics, they’re serving Christians, you name it.”

Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, who serves as president of both CNEWA and the Pontifical Mission to Palestine, is accompanying Cardinal Dolan on the pastoral visit.

The trip was planned before Hamas’ October 7, 2023, surprise attack on Israel — coinciding with a Sabbath and Jewish holiday — on some 22 locations, which led Israel to declare war on Hamas, pounding the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and launching a ground invasion. The war’s casualties include at least 1,139 people killed in Israel, more than 33,600 people killed in Gaza, including at least 13,000 children, and another 460 people killed in the West Bank. Hamas continues to hold some 130 Israeli hostages in Gaza, with at least 30 presumed dead.

In an interview with OSV News published April 4, CNEWA communications director Michael La Civita said Cardinal Dolan did not plan to visit Gaza, but planned to meet with hostages’ families.

“The Church always has to keep open the windows to dialogue,” said La Civita, who is also accompanying the cardinal. “The cardinal is going there as the chair to be that instrument, that symbol of showing another way … so that we hopefully have a just peace.”

Asked about danger due to the war, especially after seven humanitarian aid workers were killed by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza on April 1, La Civita said the delegation was undeterred.

He said, “This is where you have to have faith that we will be protected by the Lord through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.”

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Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.

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