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We stand by those working for good in this dark night

 We stand by those working for good in this dark night  ING-026
28 June 2024

“The moment is very painful, we are living through a very long night. But we also know that nights end. It is the time when the Church must work with all those who are willing to do something beautiful and good for everyone...”. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, passing through Rome, spoke to Vatican Media about the situation in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.

What is the situation these days in Israel and especially in Gaza?

The situation has not changed much compared to the recent past of these last months, with ups and downs. Gaza is now divided between the north and the south, Rafah, and the city of Gaza. There was a period when more humanitarian aid, especially in the north, was coming in. Now it has become a bit complicated again. Meat, for example, is missing. Water is problematic, and let’s say that, in general, the situation remains very deteriorated and it is very difficult to see ways out. It doesn’t seem to me that negotiations are leading to anything and that there is a real desire on the part of the parties to reach a conclusion. And this is what is perceived, also keeping in mind the Lebanon front which is heating up more and more. The prospects are not very encouraging.

How many victims are there? Some question the figures provided, but the images that arrive show destruction...

Destruction. The city of Gaza is destroyed, so the victims are many. It is difficult to give figures, but they are numerous, and this is evident. It is a fact that civilian casualties are always numerous.

How can the social fabric and coexistence be rebuilt, taking into account what has happened, but at the same time overcoming what has happened?

I think it is too early to talk about this, right now there is a war going on and trauma. It will take time to understand the extent of the trauma that has affected everyone and its consequences. Reconstruction will be necessary. There is the determination to rebuild, I perceive this very clearly. But in what way, with what criteria, and with whom? It is still too early to say.

And the situation in the West Bank?

The West Bank is always on the brink of exploding, the problems are continuous, practically daily, especially in some areas towards the north, in the area of Jenin and Nablus. The clashes between settlers and the inhabitants of Arab villages are continuous, this is creating a situation of attrition that will not lead to anything good.

You mentioned the opening of the northern front earlier. We have witnessed a very heated debate within Israel about future prospects. What can be expected?

The internal debate exists in Israel and also in Lebanon: no one wants war but it seems that no one can stop it, and this is the problem. Of course, if the northern front were to open, it would certainly be a tragedy, especially for Lebanon, which risks becoming another Gaza, at least in the southern part. I am not an expert in military matters, but the landscape remains very tense, always on the verge of further escalation.

What is the life of Christians like in such a context?

Christians are not a separate people, they live what everyone else lives. We know the situation in Gaza, unfortunately, but it is also very problematic in the West Bank, especially from an economic point of view. There is a situation of paralysis, work is scarce or non-existent, and this makes the prospects of emigration increasingly attractive, unfortunately especially for Christians.

Let’s look to the post-war period. What could the international community do? Who could help the most to achieve peace?

Making peace, at this moment, seems to me to be a goal too far off. Right now, politics, and the international community, must work primarily to stop the conflict. To make peace and reach more serious political prospects will certainly take a long time. The international community must find a way to get Israel and Hamas to stop the conflict and achieve a ceasefire that represents a first step towards something more consistent, solid, and stable.

The outcome of the next American elections will also weigh on this scenario...

Certainly, the American elections will have an influence. However, I believe that the solutions must be found locally, between the two parties, between Israel and Hamas.

Can aid reach Gaza?

Work is being done to this effect, the Latin Patriarchate is also committed to getting aid through. Tomorrow the first stock of several tons of food and basic necessities should enter. There is a lot of work to be done, there are more than two million people.

How does the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem view what is happening? What is the perspective of the man of faith in the face of all this?

Hope is the daughter of faith. The moment is very painful, we are living through a very long night. But we also know that nights end. It is the time when the Church must be present in the territory, be close, and work with all those who are willing to do something beautiful and good for everyone. When everyone erects barriers against each other, the Church must always keep her hand extended to the other. This is our task born from our experience of faith, it is what we are called to do at this moment.

Do you feel accompanied by the universal Church?

Yes, the Holy Father has always been very close to us and continues to be very close. As are many dioceses around the world.

By Andrea Tornielli