HOLY LAND – the situation in Jerusalem is still very tense and fears of a third Intifada are there. At the center of this hot reality, what is the vocation of the Church in the Holy Land? Roberto Piermarini asked Fr David Neuhaus, Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics, in an interview with Radio Vatican.
A – Church is deep rooted on both sides. There is the Arab-speaking ancient Church which should live in solidarity with the Palestinian people in its difficult moments, in its fight for independence, for recognition: this Arabic-speaking segment of the Church should stay in deep solidarity with the Palestinian people, but always saying the truth, upholding the Christian position as regards violence and anything that is unlawful in the fight for rights, for equity.
On the other hand, there is a much smaller, weaker Church, living within the Hebrew society, speaking and praying in Hebrew: ¨this segment of the Church too, in solidarity with the Israeli people, should say truth. Truth is in any case always the same, it is not ambivalent. Truth is the truth of the situation, of suffering, of oppression, of discrimination, of occupation, of terrorism, of unlawful use of force. Here too, this other segment of the Church, in deep solidarity with the Jewish people in this very promising period where relations between Church and the Jewish people are outstanding, the best ever since 2000 years, should talk about the situation using the same Christian language. The purpose is to raise a new reality, in mutual respect, since we are all followers of the same Church. I believe that there is here a small seed which can change the situation, provided we have patience and faith, as we always tend to ask: “What’s going on in the Holy Land? What can we do?” First thing to do is to pray, knowing that everything leads to the general good, for God is the one who guides History. For the moment, this is the vocation of the Church: using the word to change what is going on men’s minds. Here, with a strong voice, calling for justice and peace for everybody, lie the Church values. We are looking for those who, both within the Palestinian and Israeli communities, seek justice and peace, in order to work together, to shuffle our society.
Fr: what were the reactions of Pope Francis visit to the Holy Land? What are its fruits?
A – I believe there’s something very important: Pope showed evidence how religion can promote justice and peace. Here, religion is manipulated by our political, ideological leaders to show that God being to my side God fights against the other party. The Pope has shown very clearly what the Church believes in and promotes: God is Truth and God loves each one of us. Pope went to meet the two sides and has achieved symbolically strong gestures to ask: Where is God in the midst of this entire situation? It is there where we seek forgiveness that we ought to look for reconciliation. That was the force of the Pope’s message during and after his visit: Where is God? We should thus find ourselves, certain that we are all God-loved children, and that God does not hold preference for a son over another one. Maybe he used others to proclaim his love to us. We are all children of God and when we start praying we should realize that we cannot expect of God to say what pleases to us: “God is to my side in the fight against my foe.” But in praying we know that the one whom I consider a foe is my brother. The word “brother” has repeatedly been brought up during the Pope’s speeches in the Holy Land. Talking to Bartholomew, he called him “my dear and well-beloved brother” there was no division but a brotherhood. With even Moslems, Jews, Palestinian and Israeli leaders alike, this term is one that can change our mode of thinking. Thus the Pope has reinforced the Church in its mission to announce with a strong voice what is our vocation.
Fr: how does the church see at this moment the future of Jerusalem, does she see Jerusalem rivaled between Israelis and Palestinians?
Talking about Jerusalem, the Church has for many years talked about a city “off conflict”, meaning an international city. Maybe that’s the best solution for the moment. But over the last years, the Church has also taken into consideration the fact that perhaps there could be an agreement. In the early 90s we had thought that the moment had probably come. In the present situation, Church insists on the fact that Jerusalem is an international city and at the same time a city where every individual, rights and faithful of each religion should be respected. I believe that on this point Church instead of stopping at a rigid view of the situation, would like above all that Jerusalem lives its own vocation. We still remember the eloquent speeches and the document of John Paul II on Jerusalem and its vocation: we cannot forget that Jerusalem is important for Jews, Christians and Moslems. God has wanted it that way: this did not occur without the will of God. Therefore Jerusalem should remain the city that delivers this message: all my children, all should be able to find in Jerusalem their spiritual and religious home.
By: Radio Vatican