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New Jerusalem bishop
Interfaith gathering celebrates consecration of West Bank native


Samir Habiby
Accompanying coadjutor bishop Suheil Dawani into St. George’s Cathedral is Bishop Tom Shaw of the Diocese of Massachusetts. Behind them are Bishop Brian Castle, representing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Archbishop Clive Handford, president bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East.   (Samir Habiby)
Anglicans in Jerusalem celebrated the consecration of Suheil Dawani, a 54-year-old native of Nablus, West Bank, in January. Dawani will succeed  Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, who presided over the consecration, upon the latter’s retirement next year.

The Bethlehem Bible College Choir sang as people arrived for the consecration at the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr. As bishops and clergy processed through the cloisters and into the church, the sound of drums and percussion from the Boy Scout Band from Ramallah accompanied them.

The day brought together not only the whole Anglican Communion, but also the whole ecumenical movement, said the Rev. Charles Cloughen of Maryland, president of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, who attended the consecration. “The Orthodox bishop was here. The apostolic delegate and other Roman Catholic bishops were here. The Armenian Orthodox bishop was here. So it was wonderful for me to see this, especially having a Lutheran bishop laying on hands on Bishop Suheil,” Cloughen said. “It is a wonderful way of bringing the whole church together.”

The congregation of more than 500 included Dawani’s friends and family and laity and clergy representing mission and ecumenical partners and parishes from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Japan. The archbishop of Canterbury was represented by two members of his personal staff. Representatives of the Israeli Government and the Palestinian National Authority also attended.

An Episcopal greeting

Phoebe Griswold, accompanied by the Rev. Brian Grieves, director of the church’s peace and justice ministries, presented Dawani with a Steuben dove during the liturgy and read a message from Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold.

“Receive this symbol of peace and come among us as a peacemaker, reconciler and pastor to all,” she said. “May God grant you strength for the journey and wisdom, patience and love as you exercise this ministry of leadership for the whole church.”

Retired Bishop Samir Kafity, preaching in Arabic, affirmed the indigenous character of the church in Jerusalem and its leadership. He encouraged Dawani to be faithful to this inheritance and visionary in building on the firm foundation laid by his predecessors.

When Dawani was presented to the people, they greeted him with spontaneous applause.
He told the congregation that all Christians are called to manifest God’s amazing grace and to seek for his justice. “We all have to engage in the ministry of reconciliation,” he said, urging the faithful to join efforts for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Referring to the importance of Jerusalem, Dawani said he saw it as his duty to help to make Jerusalem a model for peace between the three Abrahamic faiths. “It is our task to give hope to the hopeless.” He concluded with the hope that, “In our daily lives, may we be guided by the star of God’s love.”

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