· Vatican City ·

Interview with Archbishop of New York

Words of peace

 Words of peace  ING-016
19 April 2024

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, was in Jerusalem from 12-18 April, in his capacity as President of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. During his visit, he participated in formal meetings and in encounters with local Christian communities.

Your Eminence, what is the purpose of this visit?

We came to Berto for a precise purpose — to celebrate 75 years of The Pontifical Mission for Palestine, which was established by Pope Pius xii in 1949 to provide assistance to refugees from the first Arab-Israeli war. It has done and continues to do remarkable work in health care, education and charity, assisting the beleaguered, tiny Catholic Christian minorities — a task that involves the tireless work of the Church in North America. A remarkable work in bringing people together from the Islamic community; from the Jewish community; from the Christian community.

During these days, we met with many communities from different religious beliefs, especially those involved with caring for children, who are the ones to suffer the most from this conflict which has been ongoing for 76 years. We go to Bethlehem University, there we meet with Israeli students, Islamic students, Christian students — a paradigm of the future society we hope for. We will go to a home for a Casa di Cura right this afternoon. And there we will see Jewish elders, Islamic elders and Christian elders. As Pope Benedict xvi said, our works of charity and education and health care are really sacramental. And throughout all these years, the Pontifical Mission has borne witness to this sacramentality, in a concrete way.

You have also had important meetings here.

Yes, on Sunday evening I had a pleasant conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And I was very pleased to receive gratitude and compliments for the Pontifical Mission from him as well as from the President of Israel, President Isaac Herzog. They both appreciate and they both are very solicitous of the Christian presence. I saw that the Christian communities, and in particular the Catholic community led by Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, are held in high regard. In particular in the grave situation that developed following the 7 October attack, our efforts to always use words of peace, to promote a mindset of encounter is recognized and appreciated well beyond our small communities. Aside from our activities, I noticed that people welcome Pope Francis’ strong voice. Some criticize him, some are happy with him. But everybody appreciates his strong voice in urging peace and dialogue.

You also met Patriarch Pizzaballa.

Yes. And we prayed and celebrated together. I am so moved by the Latin Rite Patriarch and his beautiful homily on Holy Thursday when he said a political solution alone will not settle it. And an economics resolution by itself will not settle it. A military solution by itself will not settle it. The real solution is a renewal of our belief in common humanity that leads us to recognize that we are all children of God, made in his image and likeness, deserving of dignity and respect. And that is not only the voice of Cardinal Pizzaballa, but also the strong voice of Pope Francis and of the entire Church in which we, as The Pontifical Mission, carry out a precious service for unity and peace — to be light for this world as the Gospel asks of us.

Your visit to Jerusalem took place at a time of bitter crisis. You were able to see the flashes of missiles over the holy city last Saturday.

That was very disturbing for us in the middle of the night — to be awoken by sirens and then to run downstairs, here in the pilgrim guest house. But then the next morning, sitting here, I was amazed to see that buses and trams were filled with people going to work and that everything had returned to a paradoxical normalcy. On the one hand, I thought this is tragic because people here are used to what they should never get used to — war. And on the other hand, I thought it was also a beautiful example of resilience against violence and evil. Life must go on and we also came here so that peace may continue.

From Jerusalem
By Roberto Cetera