When Pope Benedict XVI visited the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem recently he said:
‘God has blessed me with this opportunity to express my appreciation to the administrators, physicians, nurses and staff of Caritas Baby Hospital for the invaluable service they have offered – and continue to offer – to children in the Bethlehem region and throughout Palestine for over fifty years. Father Ernst Schnydrig founded this facility upon the conviction that innocent children deserve a safe haven from all that can harm them in times and places of conflict. Thanks to the dedication of Children’s Relief Bethlehem, this institution has remained a quiet oasis for the most vulnerable, and has shone as a beacon of hope that love can prevail over hatred and peace over violence.’
For the more than 500,000 children of four years old or younger who live in Palestine, not even basic health services are routinely available. The Caritas Baby Hospital is the only paediatric hospital in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip together, and it attempts to provide this care for all children and mothers, regardless of race or creed, every day of the year. It is wonderful to see the loving care and attention that these children, and their mothers, receive, and when one sees the tiny, premature babies who make up part of the hospital’s population, one thinks of the little babies of similar size who in other places are routinely killed by abortion.
Sadly, at times, the wonderful work of the staff of the hospital is hindered when the authorities refuse access to a sick baby through the checkpoints in the Wall that surrounds so many Palestinian towns and villages. This can result in a round journey of perhaps forty or more extra kilometres, a delay that can be fatal in an emergency situation.