The Bishop of the Holy Land looks back over 60 years in a Christian community "in evolution". Having archived the Trump presidency and the Netanyahu era, there are no "positive glimmers". Goals include "strengthening the commitment to migrants", theological formation and unity, safeguarding the different peculiarities.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - A region experiencing "alternating hopes and disappointments" and a Church called to "keep the missionary experience alive". This is how Msgr Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, former auxiliary bishop and patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem of the Latins, retired due to age limit, but still active in pastoral work, describes the Israeli-Palestinian tensions and a Christian community in "evolution".
At the weekend, the prelate celebrated confirmations in a small parish on the border between Jenin and Nazareth, because the joy of proclamation overcomes "disappointment on the political level for a peace that has never materialized”. The interview:
From the lightning war in Gaza to the end of the Netanyahu era, what prospects are opening up in the region?
We are living an alternation of hopes and disappointments, disappointments and hopes. Now we have a different government [led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett], which does not have new elements, but is nevertheless a factor for change. After the Trump presidency in the United States there are no positive signs, and the idea of a territory for two states no longer seems possible. A strong arbiter is needed, but the UN is weak and the US is too partial [even with Biden]. In Gaza the situation is the same as before, the people are tired of war, violence, of living in an open-air prison.
The Patriarchate's leaders visited the Christians in the Strip. What reality did you encounter?
We met the 1,234 members of the community, we know them one by one, and we admire their strength and courage. They are good at resisting, they told us they would like to leave, but there is no possibility, so they stay, trying to be "the salt and light of the world". Fortunately, Christians can work, thanks to the schools and hospitals, the center for the handicapped and Caritas, which represent a fundamental professional outlet.
In recent days, Patriarch Pizzaballa has made a series of appointments, which, after his term as apostolic administrator, he is now exercising in full. What perspective do they point to?
The patriarchate continues on a path of 'beautiful evolution', because changes bring positive elements. New vicars for Amman, Jerusalem, for the pastoral care of migrants, the Jewish community and Cyprus. We want to guarantee continuity to the mission in the land of Christ, infusing new elements in step with the ideas of Pope Francis: synodality, the year of St Joseph, the Holy Family travelling to the Arab countries. And again, to strengthen the commitment to migrants - Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Nigerians, Indians - who are increasingly numerous and whom we must care for.
What are the main objectives?
First of all, to improve the theological formation of lay people and seminarians, an aspect on which the new Patriarch insists a great deal. Unity, because even though Jordan, Gaza, Palestine, Cyprus and Israel are so different, we must work to strengthen ties while safeguarding their specific characteristics. Finally, greater cohesion among priests, especially local ones, who are the Church of Jerusalem.
After the blockade on Covid, what prospects are there for pilgrimages, a fundamental economic resource for Christians in the Holy Land?
We are waiting for you all! So far there is not great news, a few small groups have arrived, but nothing significant in terms of numbers. It will take months to get back into the rhythm, but what we hope is that future pilgrims will come with a new spirit. They are not just visitors, tourists, but must bear witness with a different lifestyle that is more in keeping with the journey being made.
On a personal level, how is this new chapter in your mission impacting you?
As always in the past, with great joy and enthusiasm. For a chapter that ends, a new one begins where I am freer in terms of official commitments, but where I keep my spirit of service intact. I have been in the region since the 1960s, yet I continue to study, to deepen my knowledge of the mission. Today [10 July] I have a confirmation in a small parish on the border between Jenin and Nazareth, the community is looking forward to this with great enthusiasm.
How would you weigh up your 60 years of life in the Holy Land?
On the political level, disappointment for a peace that never arrived. It was impossible to hope to solve all the problems, but it was legitimate to hope for an agreement. Instead, wars and intifadas follow one another and there is no end in sight. On a personal level, I feel bound to the land of Jesus and to the Church of Jerusalem, a reality that has suffered so much but remains an example of resistance and resilience.
Your Grace, do you have a project that you would like to see brought to completion?
My greatest wish is to see a broader and deeper knowledge of Catholic theological Christian thought and a new impetus to Arab patrology, a rich heritage that is yet to be discovered. We are only at 6 or 7% of the total number of known manuscripts and there are still many to be opened, discovered and studied.
How do you assess the dialogue with the Jewish and Muslim world?
It must continue and be more sincere. I would like it to be more loyal, a frank confrontation that does not conceal other aims, that can be freed from classical schemes. It must be beautiful, open and stimulating.
What is your final wish for the Latin Patriarchate and, more generally, for the Church of the Holy Land?
To keep the missionary experience alive. I myself spent six years in South Sudan and it was an unforgettable experience, which I cherish with much nostalgia and gratitude. I would like the whole Church of Jerusalem to have this missionary stimulus, going out to others. I admire the Pope's words when he speaks of the "Church going out" from the Upper Room. Here the Church was born and then went out to others, with the wounds of the passion still in one hand and a piece of bread in the other.