Pizzaballa: Gospel is the only way to achieve peace and overcome violence and failures in the Holy Land
In his New Year homily, the apostolic administrator calls on the faithful not to yield to a "resigned attitude". Dialogue is "a spiritual attitude" and indicates the ability to "go out of oneself" to listen to the “expectations of others”. In a context of conflict and contrasts, the Church can be a “place and experience of a possible peace”.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, led the Mass to the start the New Year.
In his homily, sent to AsiaNews for wider circulation, he said that despite “many failures” in the peace process and the “continuous violence” in the area, “It would be a serious lack of faith to yield to this defeatist and resigned attitude.”
For him, “Dialogue is above all a spiritual attitude and indicates the ability to go out of oneself in order to carefully listen to the interests and expectations of others” provided we understand that “Adhering to the Christian faith [. . .] does not automatically make us capable of dialogue and experts of peace.”
This said, “we will continue to affirm the way of the Gospel as the only possible way leading to peace in a social and political context where oppression, closure, and violence seem the only possible ways.” In such a situation, charity, vocation, prophecy, ecumenical dialogue and prayer are for Archbishop Pizzaballa "some possible paths", among others, for reaching peace.
Here is Archbishop Pizzaballa’s homily, edited for brevity:
The foresight of Pope Paul VI is still very timely. Significantly, the Day for Peace is entrusted to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whose divine motherhood we are celebrating today.
The message of the Holy Father this year is particularly meaningful for us: “Peace as a path of hope: dialogue, reconciliation, and ecological conversion.”
Frankly, we must admit that these are words are quite distant from our current experience here, in the Holy Land. Indeed, it seems that for a long time there has been no real dialogue, except in small albeit significant institutions, in limited circles, but certainly not between the authorities, be they political or religious or at a general level. Furthermore, the word ‘reconciliation’ is almost taboo here. How can we speak of reconciliation – it is said – as long as this situation of injustice exists in our land?
Finally, ecological conversion: we do not even understand what this is. It is a topic of capital importance and of a global dimension, but it is discussed almost exclusively in rich countries, certainly not in ours.
Are we therefore hopeless? Of course not. The first part of the title of the message speaks precisely of a “path of hope.” We can, therefore, say that we want to place ourselves there, on that path of hope, which is the vocation proper to our Church, and which must lead us to peace.
It is not possible to comment on the whole document, so I thought of concentrating on one of the themes of Pope Francis’ message, which is dialogue.
The Church has made dialogue the main axis of her proclamations, especially since Vatican II and with the encyclical of Pope Paul VI Ecclesiam Suam, which focuses almost exclusively on this theme.
More than fifty years later, we must deal with the many failures that forces us to look at this issue with greater disenchantment than the saintly Pope Paul VI.
In our local context, we must deal with the failures of the many talks on possible peace agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, with the failure of the agreements already reached, with continuous violence. We must deal with general mistrust for possible new perspectives, for the desire for peace, for possible change. In short, we talk about dialogue and peace when foreigners come, and at the various conferences organized from abroad, but we know in our hearts that the reality here is very different and that dialogue is far from our reality.
So, what can we do? Is everything lost? Are we without hope? Of course not! It would be a serious lack of faith to yield to this defeatist and resigned attitude. Dialogue is above all a spiritual attitude and indicates the ability to go out of oneself in order to carefully listen to the interests and expectations of others.
Adhering to the Christian faith, therefore, does not automatically make us capable of dialogue and experts of peace.
Despite on a personal level, we frequently meet people of faith, reconciled and full of life and therefore constructors of dialogue, it is more difficult to meet ecclesial communities that express this same desire.
How, in the context of distrust, suspicion, fear of each other, can our Church announce dialogue and peace seriously and credibly, without it being empty talk? What are the ways in which to witness to our Christian values? Allow me here to highlight some possible paths.
Recognize the reality
Firstly, we are invited to accept the reality in which we live with its specifics, its struggles, its conflicts. Imagine being the Church in the Holy Land avoiding or fleeing conflicts or trying to resolve them with non-Gospel methods. Perhaps this would preserve our structures, but it would not nourish the faith and hope of our Christians.
Vocation and prophecy
The starting point of our pastoral strategies must start not so much from the situation of our Churches and communities that at times we cannot but be worried, but from the vocation that our Churches have in this difficult context.
We will be an “interesting” Church insofar as prophecy is our daily witness. That means we will continue to affirm the way of the Gospel as the only possible way leading to peace in a social and political context where oppression, closure, and violence seem the only possible ways.
Building peace then means persevering in faith and intercession. Praying is the first means as a Church to stand “between” people and God, involved and sharing in their cries and pleas, and, at the same time, with eyes and hearts turned to heaven.
This second service of the Church is similar to the first: to actively share the struggles and sufferings of the victims, the weak and the poor, with a lively and intelligent charity that testifies to a different possibility of being in the world.
In a context marked by wounds and disparities, the Church can become a place and experience of a possible peace. If we have little opportunity to intervene in political conflicts or to sit at international conferences, we have however all the possibilities, and the duty, to construct reconciled and hospitable communities, open and available to an encounter; authentic spaces of shared fraternity and sincere dialogue.
Parrhesia – Freedom of Expression
Our faithful expect from us a word of hope, of consolation, but also of truth. One cannot be silent in the face of injustice or invite Christians to quiet living and disengagement. The preferential option for the poor and weak, however, does not make the Church a political party. The Church loves and serves the polis 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 man, but it does not enter into the dynamics of competition and division.