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Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan feels ‘safe and secure’ in Israel after Iranian drone strike and missile attempts: Photo gallery

An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, April 14, 2024. (OSV News/Amir Cohen, Reuters)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said he and other members of a delegation traveling in Israel and Palestine “feel safe and secure” April 14, after Israel defended itself overnight from unprecedented Iranian drone strikes and missiles.

“That wasn’t true in the middle of last night when the air raid sirens went off and when we had to go down and seek security at Notre Dame Center,” he said in an April 14 video on social media posted that day from Bethlehem. “But right now things look good and we’re grateful for that. And thanks for all of your expressions of concern.”

The cardinal is traveling in Israel and Palestine April 12-18 as chairman of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which supports the Catholic Church in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

Despite the events of the previous night, “This Sunday in Bethlehem all does seem calm and bright,” he said.

Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the Archdiocese of New York, previously confirmed the delegation’s safety in Jerusalem to OSV News in the early morning hours April 14. The delegation was staying at Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, which supports researchers in the Holy Land and offers hospitality to pilgrims.

The pastoral visit, led by Cardinal Dolan and other CNEWA leaders, 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 300 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.

CNEWA communications director Michael La Civita told OSV News April 14 that the pastoral visit continued after the airstrikes. “We celebrated Mass this morning in the Latin parish in Beit Jala — packed,” he said. “After touring the convent grounds of the Salesian sisters in the Cremisan Valley, we had lunch, then prayed in the grotto of the Church of the Nativity. Currently, we are in the Aida Refugee Camp outside Bethlehem.”

“All is well, thank God,” La Civita continued. “The cardinal is getting a thorough review of the work of the church in the shadow of where the Prince of Peace was born.”

For security reasons, the full itinerary of the trip has not been released, La Civita told OSV News prior to the trip.

Cardinal Dolan had planned to reprise previous visits to Ephpheta Paul VI Institute (Effetà Betlemme), a school for hearing-impaired children in Palestinian territories; the House of Grace, which supports prisoners, at-risk youth, families in need and Holocaust survivors; and the Notre Dame des Douleurs (Our Lady of Sorrows) Home, which serves disadvantaged elders.

In a video posted to social media April 13 by The Good Newsroom, the New York Archdiocese’s media outlet, prior to the airstrikes, 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.”

In his April 14 video, the cardinal spoke about the Creche, a refuge for abandoned children in Bethlehem, run by the Daughters of Charity. He commended the sisters’ work, which he saw firsthand during his visit the previous day.

“They take abandoned babies. They take babies that are not wanted,” Cardinal Dolan said. “And they said to me, ‘Every time we get a new baby on our doorstep, every time we find a new baby who has no one to care for him or her, we feel that it’s Christmas all over again. As another one of God’s children is born, we have the honor to love them so tenderly and care for them.'”

He continued, “Those are messages of inspiration that you get here in the Holy Land, that I think can give the people the resilience and hope for which they’re famous.”

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 prior to Hamas’ Oct. 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, and 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, La Civita said Cardinal Dolan did not plan to visit the Gaza Strip, 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 just peace.”

Asked about danger due to the war, especially after seven humanitarian aid workers were killed by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza 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.”