Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Biretta tip to the Italian Commissary to the Holy Land who has just made public this interview with the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM. The interviewer was Carlo Giorgi and was carried out on the phone.

Father Pizzaballa, what do you think of the present situation, after 17 days of war in the Gaza Strip?
Quite frankly, I no longer know what to think... I do not believe that it is possible to establish that there is a right and a wrong side in this situation, but it is clear that it is always the weakest who suffer. And it is obvious that the clear result of this conflict is an increase in reciprocal hatred and incomprehension. The majority of the Israelis are in favour of the conflict; at least they see in the war a strong answer which voices the bitterness due to such a long period of missiles being fired from Gaza. On the other hand, on the Palestinian side, the hatred and grievances of living in a situation such as that of the Gaza Strip, are today increasing out of all proportion. The victim of this situation is dialogue. Not so much political dialogue, which the authorities will inevitably have to undertake, due to their role; but dialogue between the populations: the recognition, in the common perception, that dialogue is necessary will continue to remain distant and not implemented for a long time yet.

How is the Church of the Holy Land being mobilized to help the victims of the conflict?
To tell you the truth, today all of us are powerless. There is nothing we can do. This is one of the negative aspects of this situation. Yes, we have been asked if we are ready to accept children, if they can be brought out of the Gaza Strip. And all the religious institutions are ready to take them in, but the fact is that this is only a hope: in the current conditions nobody, apart from the Israeli army, can enter or leave the Gaza Strip.

What is your comment on the Pope's hope that politicians capable of promoting peace in the Holy Land emerge from the forthcoming elections?
I think it is what everybody hopes for. The Pope was not referring to any party in particular; the hope is that, whoever is elected, their decisions will be in favour of peace.

Do you think that in the current state of affairs the Pope can still make his planned trip to the Holy Land?
Officially, the Pope's trip has never actually been announced and so it cannot officially be cancelled either.

What can Christians in Western countries concretely do to help the people in difficulty due to the war and to promote peace?
First of all, Christians can pray and this is certainly the most important thing. Secondly, pilgrimages have to continue to be encouraged. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land are safe and the war situation is limited to Gaza. If the idea that the safety of pilgrimages was at risk (which is not true) were to spread, the population of the Holy Land would be deprived of income and this would be yet another serious problem in the lives of the inhabitants of this land. Lastly, it is also very important that Christians put into effect a serious mobilization which is not politically exploited, in the countries where they live. Pressure has to be put on the international community so that it insists on the parties moving towards a conclusion of the conflict.

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