New Impetus at Bethlehem University with the help of the Custody of the Holy Land | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

New Impetus at Bethlehem University with the help of the Custody of the Holy Land

Bethlehem, January 31, 2013

Bethlehem University will be able to develop a new piece of land, not far from its historic home, thanks to an agreement with the Custody of the Holy Land. On January 31, 2013, Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, and Bro. Peter Bray, vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of the University, signed an agreement, in which the custody of the Holy land has committed to finance the purchase of the property called “Mount of David” – a 12 thousand meter area of land upper area of Bethlehem, owned by the Latin Patriarchate. The Custody offered 6 million dollars toward the purchase of the land, adding to the 2.3 million more made available by other benefactors, covering 60% of the cost of the land. The university has launched an appeal to private donors in order to raise the remaining portion, equaling approximately 5.5 million dollars.

This agreement, which constitutes a shared property between the Custody and the university, has been called a form of “fraternal cooperation” between the two Catholic entities. It will allow Bethlehem University to develop a number of projects, as new classrooms, laboratories and offices will be built on more than half of the available space.

This will help to make possible the launching of a new Masters Degree program in business management, governance and public administration, international diplomacy and foreign policy, as well as professional courses for social workers.

“We are approaching our 40th Anniversary,” Bro. Peter Bray explained, “and we can set a new standard for the training of future leaders of Palestine. I thank the Custody of the Holy Land and all the generous donors who have offered us this opportunity to better serve the Palestinian people.”

Bethlehem University was the first Catholic university in the Middle East. Pope Paul VI laid the first stone on the occasion of his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964; however, ordinary academic activities were only inaugurated 10 years later, in 1973. The university today offers a range of degree programs in both humanities (Arabic, English, social science and religious studies) and science (business management, nursing, sciences and education) as well as graduate and postgraduate degrees (international cooperation and development, biotechnology and tourism).

The university is under the direction of the Christian Brothers de La Salle, also known as the Brothers of Christian Schools, founded by John Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719), and present in the Holy Land since 1876. Since the founding of the university, it is estimated that more than 14,500 young Palestinians – both Christian and Moslem – have received training in its classrooms. It is not uncommon for graduates of the university to achieve positions of responsibility, as can be seen in the example of Vera Baboun, who was elected last November as the first woman Mayor of Bethlehem. Ms. Baboun was also a teacher at the university.

Foto: MAB