Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Baby Caritas Hospital in Bethlehem.


Sunday the 23rd of September, in Saint Francis’s church in Bethlehem, the commemoration of the 60th foundation anniversary of Caritas Baby Hospital was held.

The crowded church with faithful, locals, foreigners, religious, celebrated a solemn mass, presided by Mgr. William Shomali and concelebrated by Mgr. Felix Gmür, bishop of Basel in Switzerland. The Italian Consul General, Mr. Gianpaolo Cantini, was present.

Following the greetings, Mons. Shomali, thanked the Lord for the 60 years of service devoted with a spirit of sacrifice and perseverance notwithstanding numerous difficulties; mentioning the many generous people who came from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Austria and England, that cooperated in sustaining this important institution..

The homily was inspired by Sunday’s Gospel. Mgr. Shomali interpreted Jesus’s words when He told his disciples: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me …” to signify that Caritas Baby Hospital’s love in these 60 years of work has been for “the weak, humble and meek human beings. Baby Jesus’s image, he who was born here, in this town. “

He thanked, in particular, the Franciscan Sisters of St Elizabeth of Padua, present in the hospital since 1975, a spiritual and human reference point for the children patients and their parents, taking care of them tirelessly and with maternal tenderness.

At the mass’s conclusion those present continued the celebration through the hospital, which is located a few meters away from Bethlehem’s checkpoint.

Father Michael Shweiger, the Foundation’s President, and Mr. Issa Bandak welcomed everyone; Bishop Felix Gmür and the Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Hani Abdeen, exchanged words of gratitude.

Three young students from the Edward Said Institute performed a short musical entertainment. The present visited the photo exhibition that shows the hospital’s history. The ceremony ended with a reception set up in the hospital’s courtyard.

The hospital was built in 1952 by a Swiss priest, father Ernest Schnydrig, after he visited Bethlehem he realized how hard the Palestinian people living conditions were, and was touched in seeing a father burying his son, who had died because of the lack of medical treatment. Urged by this serious situation, he started a project to build a primary health care centre for all the children who were born in Jesus’s land, without discrimination.

It is reknown, that in Palestine there was a lack of free health service conditions, for this reason the founder wanted to assure health assistance. In 1963 the project joined the “Children Relief Bethlehem”.

The hospital was built on a piece of land donated by the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land. It was visited by Pope Benedict XVI during his pilgrimage in Bethlehem, in May 2009.

The Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem, the only pediatric hospital in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, equipped with modern and specialized equipment, has recently added a clinic and two “School for mothers” buildings that host the mothers of the admitted children, educating them on how to take care of their children.

The Bethlehem Caritas Baby Hospital admits around 30.000 bambini per year for health care services, on a total of circa 500.000 Palestinian children, under fourteen years of age.

The employees are 218 people: doctors, nurses and staff.

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