The apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reflects on how the emergency has awakened the desire to “seek something more profound”. The wish to keep the Holy Sepulchre open for functions, in compliance with the rules. The work of priests for families in need. Reviewing relationships, rethinking relationships.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The coronavirus emergency “reminds us of our human limitations”, that “one small virus brings our entire system to a halt” because “we are not masters of our destiny”; however, the “feeling of disorientation” has awakened “the desire” to “wonder about something more true and profound for our life,” reflects apostolic administrator of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the Latins. In an interview with AsiaNews Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa speaks of a crisis that has also affected the Church of the Holy Land. There is a greater fear than in the days of the Intifada, the Holy Sepulchre open for functions without pilgrims, the risk of an epidemic in Gaza with devastating effects: Covid-19 also hit the land of Jesus in the weeks of Lent in preparation for Easter, the most important moment of the liturgical calendar. “We must lift our gaze and remember that, if we are creatures, there is also a Creator”.
Here is Msgr. Pizzaballa’s interview with AsiaNews:
Your Excellency, how are the Christians in the Holy Land coping with the coronavirus epidemic?
It is worse that than times of war. At least during the war, we could gather and pray in the churches, to gain strength. Today we can’t and even if we try to make up for it through online, it is not the same thing. In our Church there are different legislations, but the state indications are uniform: one cannot go out, except to buy basic necessities. So far we have no victims and the virus is not as extensive as in Italy, but there is a lot of fear and closures as a precaution. The major concerns are currently economic and social for people who have been unemployed. I am thinking above all of Palestine or Jordan, without guarantees from the welfare state.
Some symbolic places like the Holy Sepulchre remain open …
In compliance with security measures, we want to remain open. The closure of the Holy Sepulchre to pilgrims is a must, but the ceremonies inside it will continue. This is an important signal for the community and our priests try to be present in different activities and ways. Of course, house visits cannot be made, but priests spend their days on the phone talking to families, bring them solidarity even on a practical level. There are volunteers from the parishes who bring food to the elderly, prepare food, bring holy water to homes … small forms of solidarity.
Reduced celebrations, no pilgrims, no contact. In this emergency, is it possible to maintain a bond with the Holy Land?
The crisis triggered by the coronavirus will change, and profoundly so, the way we relate to each other in the future. Today we greatly miss the pilgrims in the holy places, which are empty and this is a source of great pain. In addition, there are also serious repercussions on the economy because thousands of people have been made unemployed and many families are in precarious conditions. We must remain united through prayer and the media, in this sense, help. We are used to receiving; now the time has come to give, to help … it is the time for solidarity.
What is the meaning of Easter in the time of the pandemic?
I have been meditating on this point a lot in the last few days, also in considering my message for Holy Week. We are all affected by this emergency, which undermines what is a constitutive factor for us: Relationships. Today we cannot have a physical relationship, our celebrations require a physical presence. This absence invites us to truly consider how we relate to each other, rethinking our relationships. The Eucharist is a relationship that becomes a sacrament, so the invitation for these last days of Lent is to reflect on how we live relationships, and then to take them up again in a commercial and financial way.
The coronavirus emergency is also points to our human limitations …
Most certainly! This moment reminds us of how limited we are, that we are creatures and not creators. With science we have reached incredible heights and achievements and this ends up deluding us that we can be the architects of our destiny. In fact, a small virus is enough and bring our entire system to a halt. We are not masters of our destiny at all, it is not just us on earth. We must raise our gaze and, for those who have faith, remember that we are creatures and, if we are creatures and there is also a Creator.