The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, gave a tough assessment today of the plight facing Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land.
Speaking in the Josaphat Valley, a short distance from the Garden of Gethsemane, during the second public Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on his Holy Land pilgrimage, Patriarch Twal compared the present situation to Jesus’ own agony in the garden.
“We have the agony of the Palestinian people,” he said, “who dream of living in a free and independent Palestinian state, but have not found its realization.” The patriarch also spoke of “the agony of the Israeli people, who dream of a normal life in peace and security and, despite all their military and mass media might, have not found its realization.”
Patriarch criticized the international community which, he said, is “just like Jesus’ beloved disciples” as they slept while he endured his agony at Gethsemane. The world community stands apart from today’s suffering in the region, he said, “eyes drooping with indifference, unconcerned with the agony of the Holy Land,” having failed for 61 years to “seriously rouse itself, to find a just solution.”
“In this Valley of Jehosephat, a valley of tears, we raise our prayer for the realization of the dreams of these two peoples,” Patriarch Twal said. “We raise our prayer for Jerusalem, to be shared by the two peoples and three religions.”
Recalling how Jesus wept as he looked out over Jerusalem from the same Mount of Olives, the patriarch noted today’s “disillusioned refugees, without any hope of return, with the widows of the victims of violence and the many families in this city, who every day see their homes demolished.”
Patriarch Twal praised the Pope for his visit, principally because it gives comfort to those who are suffering and think they have been forgotten. “Your visit today does much to comfort hearts and to say to all that the God of compassion and those who believe in him are not blind, have not forgotten and are not unmoved,” he said.
The patriarch also drew attention to the emigration of Christians from the Holy Land, “largely due to the effects of the unjust occupation and all its humiliation, violence and hatred.”
Benedict also focused on the problem of Christian emigration in his homily. “While understandable reasons lead many, especially the young, to emigrate,” he said, “this decision brings in its wake a great cultural and spiritual impoverishment to the city [of Jerusalem]”.
“Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: In the Holy Land, there is room for everyone!” the Holy Father said. “As I urge the authorities to respect, to support and to value the Christian presence here, I also wish to assure you of the solidarity, love and support of the whole Church and of the Holy See.”