03/29/2021, 12.41
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Patriarch of Jerusalem: Easter is a 'new beginning to life' after the darkness of the pandemic

Over a thousand faithful attended the procession to the Mount of Olives with the Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa. A sign of "the need to return to normality, meetings, real life". The future of pilgrimages "with a gradual recovery" and of the school "with online lessons that works up to a certain point". The Pope's “courageous” trip to Iraq. For an involvement of the Jewish world "that takes time".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The Church of the Holy Land has experienced "a new beginning: of course, precautions must be taken, and we are not yet the crowds of the past, but we are experiencing a gradual return to life" after the pandemic.

This is what the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa points out to AsiaNews, recounting the procession to the Mount of Olives and yesterday's Palm Sunday mass (in the photos) in the presence of groups of faithful, after the closures and virtual streaming of liturgies over the past months.

He continues: “There was an atmosphere of great enthusiasm, we did not expect all these people. At least 1500 people, some say 3 thousand, in any case there were many and this is a clear sign of the need to return to normality, to meet and to real life”.

In anticipation of the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter, the hope is to continue to have public gatherings although, explains the patriarch, "in our diocese we have very different realities: Palestine and Jordan are still in a rigid lockdown because the pandemic [of Covid -19] is hitting hard, while other areas like Israel and Jerusalem where we are emerging and returning to normal life. I like to think of Jerusalem - he adds - as the city that opens the paths ... the crucifixion has already taken place and we are awaiting the resurrection."

After months of participatory functions online, distancing and fear generated by the new coronavirus “people feel the need to pray together and to find themselves as a community. Even here in the Holy Land - explains Pizzaballa - the pandemic has hit hard, with deaths and social wounds. This made us look up and understand that we need God. Oure existence does not solely rely on the health of the body and, although the vaccine is fundamental and must be done, I think it is wrong to associate it with the word salvation as has been done. True salvation is something else”.

Among the sectors most affected by the pandemic are religious tourism, pilgrimages, and schools. These are two elements of fundamental importance for the life of the Church in the region and for Christians. "By the end of the year - he underlines - we will see a recovery, but it will be very gradual because it is based on the agreements linked to the validity of the vaccine, on the green passport. And then there will still be fear of traveling, the costs will be higher, but at the same time I believe that little by little these situations will unlock themselves”.

The other tragedy caused by the pandemic in addition to the deaths, continues the patriarch, "is school: in fact our students have lost two years and distance learning works up to a certain point. And then there are also economic consequences, because the children do not go to school and families cannot pay, but the salaries of the teaching staff must be paid in any case. All this has created very serious situations, which were already glimpsed before the pandemic but which the health emergency has aggravated. We are still in the midst of this chaos, which is not over yet, I hope that by the end of the year we can have clearer ideas for the future ".

The patriarch, born in the province of Bergamo (Italy) on 21 April 1965, studied in Bologna where he was ordained a deacon on 27 January 1990 and a priest on 15 September of the same year. He has been working in the Holy Land since 1999; in May 2004 he was elected as Custos, confirmed on March 22, 2010 for a second term. In 2013 he was postulated for a further three years and his office ended in April 2016. A few weeks later, on 24 June, he was appointed apostolic administrator, his predecessor have reached the age limit, which was followed by his election as patriarch of October 24, 2020.

Patriarch Pizzaballa also dedicates a thought to the recent trip of Pope Francis to Iraq and to the possible repercussions on the Holy Land and dialogue (also) with the Jewish world, in addition to Islam. “The Holy Land (laughs) is a place where there is little land and a lot of stone, and stone absorbs little. Let's say it was a very courageous journey, which did not change the concrete life of Iraq but changed everything in attitudes and relationships. There have been no immediate repercussions here, but there has been confirmation - he underlines - of the direction given by the pontiff: we are still in the midst of this chaos, which is not over yet, I hope that by the end of the year we can have ide and clearer for the future ". A future that cannot ignore the involvement of the Jewish world, after having embraced the Sunni Islam of al-Azhar and the Shiites linked to Najaf and al-Sistani.

“This aspect is still missing - observes Pizzaballa - but that doesn't necessarily mean it can't be done. We should avoid making gestures just to make them, for the cameras. We must make gestures that are true. Now the wounds in this increasingly sectarian Middle East are deep, so pretending to change everything and to reach peace and love each other would be naive, unthinkable now. We cannot speak of brotherhood by excluding someone, because everyone is needed, but each must arrive at their own pace. After all, there is also an evident fragility in political and social life "as confirmed by the recent political elections in Israel:" It is difficult - he concludes - to find a synthesis, an agreement, a greater common good than individual interests, the road is still long ".

(Photo taken from the Latin Patriarchate site of Jerusalem)

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