Cardinal Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Cardinal Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem  (REUTERS)

Patriarch Pizzaballa fears long war in Gaza, calls for ceasefire

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, speaks with Vatican Media to express his sorrow and anguish for the outbreak of war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

By Roberto Cetera

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, is saddened, but not entirely surprised, by the horror taking place in Israel and Gaza, because he himself had long predicted an escalation of tension, though not to this extent.

The new Cardinal, who returned to Jerusalem on 10 October, fears that the war will prove to be very long at least until the Palestinian issue is addressed.

Q: Your Eminence, you managed to return to Jerusalem. What did you see? What are your impressions?

I only managed to get back last night with the help of the civil and military authorities, both Israeli and Jordanian, because I entered through Jordan. I found a frightened country, astonished at what is happening.

I was certainly expecting an increase in violence, but certainly not in these forms, to this extent and with this brutality. I also found so much anger and so much expectation to receive a word of guidance, of comfort, and also of clarity about what is happening. In short, I found a country that has changed a great deal and very quickly.

Q: Do you have specific news about the condition of the Christian community in Gaza?

Yes, everyone is fine. Some families have had their homes destroyed, but they are safe. They are all gathered in the premises of the parish and our school, in the assumption that these are not targeted.

Of course, they are under great strain. They have enough food for some time, but if the siege situation were to continue, it would be a problem. For the time being, we are happy to know that they are all okay and are gathered in the parish premises.

Q: Many comments have pointed out the unpredictability of the events of these hours, but for months you have been pointing out a gradual escalation of violence that could have degenerated into something even more serious, as is happening now.

I was unfortunately an easy prophet. The escalation of the clash was there for all to see. But an explosion of such violence, scale and brutality no one had foreseen.

This, however, puts on the table an issue that had been shelved: the Palestinian question, which perhaps some people thought had been archived.

As long as the Palestinian issue, the freedom, dignity and future of the Palestinians are not taken into account in the ways that are necessary today, prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine will be increasingly difficult.

Q: Your Eminence, I realise that with the fighting going on it is difficult to make predictions, but can you see possible scenarios for the next few hours, for the next few days?

Certainly it is very difficult to make predictions at this time. It is clear that we are not in a military operation, but in a declared war. And I fear it will be a very long war.

Probably the Israeli response will not be limited to bombing but there will be a ground operation. It is clear that we have suddenly entered a new phase in the life of this country and in the relations between Israel and Palestine. If one can speak of relations.

Q: What would you like to say to the international community?

The international community must start looking again at the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian issue with more attention than it has shown so far. And it must work hard to calm the situation, to bring the parties to reasonableness through mediations that are not necessarily public, because public ones will never work.

We need support, to condemn all forms of violence, to isolate the violent, and to work relentlessly for a ceasefire. Because as long as weapons speak, it will not be possible to hear other voices.

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11 October 2023, 13:43