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Turn to prayer when feeling despair, archbishop tells Mideast Christians

21 May 2018 – By Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Even in times of violence and despair, the power of joint prayer for peace can be felt, said Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Local Palestinians, religious and foreign worshippers gathered at the Dominican Church of St. Stephen on 19 May, answering the archbishop’s call for a joint peace prayer in the face of 16 May violence along the Gaza-Israeli border, in which 62 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.

“We feel helpless for the killing of innocent people and the obstinate refusal to find alternative solutions,” said Archbishop Pizzaballa. “We must go through the strength of prayer to still believe we can change [the situation] and our land will one day be with peace and justice. We want fear and suspicion to give way to knowledge, where differences are opportunities.”

Though it may not be possible to change things as one would like in the wider world, the faithful must continue to try to change things in their own smaller communities, he said.

Their faith, he said, will give “courage to defend justice.”

Palestinian demonstrations along the border began on 31 March 31, protesting the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and marking the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call Al Naqba, or catastrophe — the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel says it has been using live ammunition to prevent Palestinian protesters — whom they say are being incited by Hamas — from breaking through the Gaza border fence, raising fears that they would carry out terrorist attacks on neighboring Jewish villages.

Rosary Sister Virginia Habib, director of the Catechetical Center of the Latin Patriarchate, said during difficult circumstances such as these, she urges the young people “not to forgo hope.”

“We are surrounded by lots of violence in all the Middle East, not just here; we as Christians should not feel frustrated — our Christian faith tells us that the Lord will help us defeat death,” said Habib.

At Pentecost, the faithful are still in the spirit of the Resurrection, she said, and there is hope that evil will not have the final word in their daily life.

“We live our lives, and we continue to come here to pray and keep praying to offer all our mortifications so that peace will take place,” Sister Habib said. “Peace will not happen in our land until peace has taken place in our own heart.”

She said she tells young people that, as Christians, they are called upon to react to the injustices they see following the teachings of Jesus. She said they listen to her because she is living the same experiences as they are.

LaSallian Christian Brother Peter Iorlano said Christians must be witnesses to peace, especially those living and working among Jews and Muslims, to speak out about injustices but in a “level-headed” way.





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