01/26/2023, 10.38
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Patriarch Pizzaballa: Christians word of 'hope and truth' in Holy Land conflicts

In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Latin primate recalls the conflicts that wear one down and the expectation of hope. A mission to which all Churches are called, leaving aside "competition and division". Schools, hospitals, houses are "our way of working for justice". At St Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Francis' warning against "indifferent misunderstanding" and "sacrilegious violence".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The presence of Christians is not limited "only to the service of charity towards the poorest: it is also parrhesiastic, that is, it cannot avoid expressing, according to the modalities proper to the Church, a judgment on the world and its dynamics (cf. Jn 16:8.11)."

This happens also and above all in the Holy Land, where "politics" interferes "with ordinary life" and "seriously questions all our Churches," said the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, in his reflection yesterday on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

He noted:  "We all are involved in a conflict that wears down the lives of our faithful, who are awaiting from us a word of hope, of consolation, but also of truth. A truly difficult and never definitive discernment is required here. We cannot remain silent in the face of injustice. Taking a stand, as we are often asked, however, cannot mean engaging in confrontation, but must always translate into words and actions on behalf of those who suffer and weep."

In a land torn apart by conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, where even holy places are an element of tension, even among Christians themselves in the past, "our speech must not be characterized by rancor, anger or resentment." On the contrary, Patriarch Pizzaballa emphasises, "it must have the freedom and peace that Christ has given us" and "can only have one perspective: forgiveness and reconciliation".

That is why "for Christians, the only possible position to take is that of Christ, serving the lives of all. The Church loves and serves society, and shares with the civil authorities concern and action for the common good, in the general interest of all and especially the poor, always raising her voice to defend the rights of God and mankind; but she does not enter into logics of competition and division.This is not the mission of the Catholic, or Orthodox, or Protestant or any other church in the Holy Land alone."

The Latin Patriarch to link the Beatitude of the afflicted (Matthew 5:4) with the passage from the book of Qoelet (4:1) dedicated to oppression and the tears of victims without comfort. Hence the reference to violence, injustice and how to confront evil.

"These are subjects that have an immediate political connotation, both internationally" and in the Holy Land. He notes, "Violence, oppression, pain, and injustice are first found in our own souls, in the lives of many families, in our own communities, and more generally in human relationships, as well as in our relationship with creation."

"Despite the many conflicts that have plagued the Holy Land for generations, the Churches here are very active in the building of the heavenly Jerusalem. Schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly, for children, for the disabled, and much more, are a constitutive part of our identity as outward, and not inward, looking communities. They are our way of doing good here in the Holy Land, of working for justice, of opening our eyes to pain and oppression."

This year, the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - celebrated from 18 to 25 January - was "Learn to do good, seek justice" (Isaiah 1:17). An exhortation that is highly topical, in the face of Russia's war in Ukraine, which also engulfs the Orthodox Churches. This is why prayer becomes a prayer for peace, repeatedly invoked in recent days also by Pope Francis who - after meeting with the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Religious Organisations - yesterday evening, on the Solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul, presided as he does every year at the celebration of Second Vespers in the basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome. 

In his reflection, the pontiff attacked "the indifferent misunderstanding" of when we Christians "put our own vision" before that of the Father and the "sacrilegious violence" of wars "waged by those who profess to be Christians". This is why he calls for a "change of perspective" that leads to looking at the world with the eyes "of Jesus Christ", because only in this way "do we grow in praying, in serving, in dialogue and in working together towards that full unity that Christ desires". From the Pauline basilica, Francis finally invoked for Christians the help of the Apostle of the Gentiles and his 'indomitable courage' in conversion.

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