Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Baby Caritas Hospital in Bethlehem. | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

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


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

The Churchwas crowded with faithful, locals, foreigners and religious,there to join in the Eucharistic celebration, presided by His Excellency William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, and concelebrated by Mgr. Felix Gmür, Bishop of Basel in Switzerland. The Italian Consul General, Mr. Gianpaolo Cantini, was present.

Following the greetings, Bishop 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 who cooperated in sustaining this important institution.

The homily was inspired by Sunday's Gospel. Bishop Shomali interpreted Jesus' 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 child-patients and their parents, taking care of them tirelessly and with maternal tenderness.

At the conclusion of the Mass, those present continued the celebration at the hospital, which is located a few meters away from checkpoint into Bethlehem.

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. Those present visited the photo exhibition that shows the hospital's history. The ceremony ended with a reception set up in the hospital courtyard.

The hospital was built in 1952, by Swiss priest, Father Ernest Schnydrig, after he visited Bethlehem. He realized how difficult the living conditions of the Palestinian people living were, and was moved 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' land, without discrimination.

It is known that in Palestine there was a lack of free health services, and for this reason the founder wanted to assure health assistance. In 1963, the project was joined by 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 to 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 "schools 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 babies and children per year for health care services, for a total of circa 500.000 Palestinian children, under fourteen years of age.

The hospital employs 218 people: doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff.