Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa has written a “letter to the entire diocese,” released this October 24, in which he urges Christians to turn to God in the midst of the Holy Land war, particularly on the Day of Prayer set by Pope Francis for Friday: “Perhaps the main thing we Christians can do at this time: pray, do penance, intercede.”
Cardinal Pizzaballa condemns both sides of the conflict:
My conscience and moral duty require me to state clearly that what happened on October 7th in southern Israel is in no way permissible and we cannot but condemn it. There is no reason for such an atrocity. Yes, we have a duty to state this and to denounce it. The use of violence is not compatible with the Gospel, and it does not lead to peace. The life of every human person has equal dignity before God, who created us all in His image.
The same conscience, however, with a great burden on my heart, leads me to state with equal clarity today that this new cycle of violence has brought to Gaza over five thousand deaths, including many women and children, tens of thousands of wounded, neighborhoods razed to the ground, lack of medicine, lack of water and of basic necessities for over two million people. These are tragedies that cannot be understood and which we have a duty to denounce and condemn unreservedly. The continuous heavy bombardment that has been pounding Gaza for days will only cause more death and destruction and will only increase hatred and resentment. It will not solve any problem, but rather create new ones. It is time to stop this war, this senseless violence.
It is only by ending decades of occupation and its tragic consequences, as well as giving a clear and secure national perspective to the Palestinian people that a serious peace process can begin. Unless this problem is solved at its root, there will never be the stability we all hope for. The tragedy of these days must lead us all, religious, political, civil society, international community, to a more serious commitment in this regard than what has been done so far. This is the only way to avoid other tragedies like the one we are experiencing now. We owe it to the many victims of these days and to those of years past. We do not have the right to leave this task to others.
The Catholic pastor of Jerusalem invites the faithful to consider a “word from the Gospel to help us live this tragic moment by uniting our feelings with those of Jesus.”
We need a Word to accompany us, to comfort and encourage us. We need it like the air we breathe.
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have tribulations, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn. 16:33).
The cardinal notes that this Scripture verse he has chosen comes from the eve of Jesus’ passion. Thus the last word Jesus gives is encouragement.
He does not say that He shall win, but that He has already won. Even in the turmoil to come, the disciples will be able to have peace. This is not a matter of theoretical irenic peace, nor of resignation to the fact that the world is evil, and we can do nothing to change it. Instead it is about having the assurance that precisely within all this evil, Jesus has already won. Despite the evil ravaging the world, Jesus has achieved a victory, and established a new reality, a new order, which after the resurrection will be assumed by the disciples who were reborn in the Spirit.
The cardinal invites the faithful to this peace given by God. “The peace He speaks of has nothing to do with victory over others. He won the world by loving it.”
And he takes up Jesus’ answer to the suffering of innocents: “God’s answer to the question of why the righteous suffer, is not an explanation, but a Presence. It is Christ on the cross.”
Courage of love
Cardinal Pizzaballa urges the faithful to have “the courage of love and peace” and spells out what that means in the current context: “Not allowing hatred, revenge, anger and pain to occupy all the space of our hearts, of our speech, of our thinking. […] It means being committed, being convinced that it is still worthwhile to do all we can for peace, justice, equality and reconciliation. Our speech must not be about death and closed doors. On the contrary, our words must be creative, lifegiving, they must give perspective and open horizons.”
Finally, the cardinal recalls the October 25 celebration of the Queen of Palestine, the patroness of the diocese.
The shrine was erected during another time of war, and was chosen as a special place to pray for peace. In these days we will once again reconsecrate our Church and our land to the Queen of Palestine! I ask all churches around the world to join the Holy Father and to join us in prayer, and in the search for justice and peace.
Read the whole letter here.