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"We are in a very serious emergency," says Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and recently appointed Cardinal, has expressed his concern about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict unleashed on October 7, 2023. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has issued a statement imploring the cessation of violence.

Loreto Rios-October 9, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Moments of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Oct. 7, 2023 ©OSV News photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters

On the occasion of the violence that has broken out on October 7, 2023 in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, a Catholic ecclesiastical circumscription subject to the Holy See whose territory includes Cyprus, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, has issued a statement imploring the cessation of hostilities.

Holy Land: called to be a land of peace

"We have witnessed a sudden explosion of violence that is very worrying because of its extent and intensity," the text notes. The Patriarchate stresses that this violence "is taking us back to the worst moments of our recent history. The excessive casualties and tragedies that both Palestinian and Israeli families have to deal with will create more hatred and division, and will further destroy any prospect of stability."

The Patriarchate also called on the international community and religious leaders around the world to "make every effort" to remedy the situation and restore peace to the region. The Holy Land, the statement continued, "is called to be a land of justice, peace and reconciliation." "We ask God to inspire religious leaders in their interventions to establish peace and harmony, so that Jerusalem can be a house of prayer for all," the document concludes.

Joint declaration of the patriarchs of Jerusalem

In addition, the patriarchs of Jerusalem have issued a joint statementThe Holy Land, appealing for respect for the "historical and legal" status quo of the holy sites. "As custodians of the Christian faith, deeply rooted in the Holy Land, we stand in solidarity with the people of this region, who are suffering the devastating consequences of ongoing conflict. Our faith, which is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, impels us to advocate for the cessation of all violent and military activity that harms both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. We unequivocally condemn any act that targets civilians, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or faith. Such actions go against the fundamental principles of humanity and the teachings of Christ," the patriarchs said.

"It is our fervent hope and prayer that all parties involved will heed this call for an immediate cessation of violence. We implore political leaders and authorities to engage in sincere dialogue, seeking lasting solutions that promote justice, peace and reconciliation for the people of this land," the note added.

"We ask the Almighty to grant comfort to the afflicted, strength to the weary, and wisdom to those in positions of authority (...) In the spirit of this divine message, we implore all to work tirelessly for the end of violence and the establishment of a just and lasting peace that will enable the Holy Land to be a beacon of hope, faith and love for all. May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all during these difficult times," the text concludes.

A very serious situation

On the other hand, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, created cardinal by Pope Francis last September 30, stressed in an interview to the SIR agency that "we are in a very serious emergency." "We are facing a very serious situation that has erupted suddenly, without much warning. It is a military campaign on both sides, very worrying in its forms, its dynamics and its scale," added the cardinal.

In addition, the Patriarch reminded a small community in Gaza, 1000 Christians of whom only a hundred are Catholics: "Let them know that, as always, they will not be left alone and that this is a time when we must be more united than ever". The Gaza community is currently well, sheltered in the premises of the parish and the school.

Pizzaballa also condemned the Israeli hostage-taking, calling it unjustifiable and noting that it "will only encourage further aggression," and has called on international leaders to mediate a cessation of violence: "The international community must turn its attention to what is happening in the Middle East. Diplomatic agreements, economic agreements do not cancel one fact: there is a Palestinian-Israeli issue that needs to be resolved and awaits a solution".

The Patriarch was in Rome when the conflict broke out, due to his recent appointment as cardinal, but managed to return to Jerusalem on Monday, October 9, "rather abruptly, with the help of the civil and military authorities, both Israeli and Jordanian, because I entered through Jordan," the cardinal commented in a interview with Vatican News. He also stated that upon his return he found "a country that has changed a lot and immediately".

In addition, in a interview with Quotidiano NazionalePizzaballa affirmed that the Holy Places remain open: "The Holy Land is a land of pilgrimages, there are so many of them. What happened was like the eruption of a volcano: no one could have foreseen it. There are thousands of pilgrims here, not only Italians. Some are stuck because the airports are closed. Others want to finish their pilgrimage. That's why the holy places remain open. But also for a matter of principle: they are places of prayer, that's what is most needed at this time".

God's presence in Jerusalem

The Custody continues to bear witness to God's presence in the Holy Land: on the same day that the attacks broke out, the Custodial solemn profession of Friar John Davida 33-year-old Colombian.

"This morning I was leaving the Holy Sepulchre when the alarm sirens began to sound," said the young friar, "and I thought: this is the place of love, the exact place where God raised his Son to eternal life out of pure love for us. May my consecration in this Holy Land, unfortunately always shaken by hatred, violence and fear, be a sign and witness of the love of God who asks us to love one another, and of union with Jesus, with that God of love who is always with us".

For his part, the Custos of the Holy Land, Friar Francesco Patton, pointed out that "in a situation of war and danger such as the one in which we suddenly find ourselves today, the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians invites us to an attitude of trust that is transformed into prayer, supplication and thanksgiving".

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