Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, met with Pope Francis on Monday to discuss the situation in the Middle East.
Speaking to journalists afterward, he said that they had discussed “the humanitarian situation of the Christian community in Gaza and in the Holy Land more generally,” as well as the state of dialogue in the region and the prospects for peace.
Responding to questions from reporters, Patriarch Pizzaballa said that Gaza’s Christians are “living through the same situation as everyone else.”
“They are not a people apart,” he said, and although the fact of being a “small minority, a very small number” weighs on them, their situation is “a microcosm of the difficulties that the whole population is experiencing.”
“It is not easy, even for the Christians, to be in a situation of great division where everyone is expected to take sides,” the Cardinal Patriarch observed.
He added that he is in regular contact with Gaza’s Catholic parish, which is in the north of the Strip, where there is now less fighting.
“Military operations have moved further south,” the Patriarch said, “but it remains an area where there is nothing: there are no houses, there is no water, there is no electricity, there is nothing. It is a situation of extreme poverty, and there are no institutions present.”
Jordan as base for humanitarian mission
Patriarch Pizzaballa has arrived in Italy from Jordan, where he has been for the past week.
“The situation in Jordan is complex, but I must say that it is the only country that is stable from a political as well as a humanitarian point of view,” he explained. “When we need to get humanitarian aid to Gaza, our address is the Jordanian Royal House.”
The Patriarch reported that he has spoken with King Abdallah, the Jordanian government, and various institutions “to see if we can keep the channels of communication alive with Gaza and also with the little authority that is left there.”
Jordan is therefore at the moment “the most stable reference point” for the Church, but “there is collaboration, a minimum of collaboration, with humanitarian organisations, too, and with Egypt.”
Dialogue must continue
The search for an end to the war in Gaza, Patriarch Pizzaballa said, is not an easy one.
“We have to think in stages,” he said. “There will be no immediate solution. What is important now is to find channels of communication between the two sides. Between Israel and Hamas.”
The Catholic Church, he added, will continue to work toward this goal.