CNEWA received a visit today from His Beatitude, Archbishop Foaud Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The patriarch — who has responsibility for Latin Catholics in Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus — met with Msgr. John Kozar and members of the New York staff. During a wide-ranging interview, he shared some of his thoughts about what his happening in the Middle East.
“I feel more than ever,” he began, “that Jerusalem is not for us alone. It welcomes all the faithful. And it divides the faithful at the sametime. We love it so much that everybody is ready to die for it.”
Living in a land so often torn by violence, he yearns for peace.
“If there is peace in Jerusalem,” he asked, “can we have peace in all the Middle East? I think we can, we can. With its religious dimension, I think Jerusalem is key to peace.
“We must have the courage to look at peace for everybody,” he continued. “The dream, my dream, is a dream of men of good will: when their children and our children can play soccer together and study together and they can eat together.”
The patriarch, who was born in Madaba, Jordan, noted that Christians are a minority in the Holy Land — making up only about two percent of the population — but he believes Christians have a special role to play. “I want the church to be a bridge for peace between people, between Muslims and Jews,” he explained. “Charity does not know any borders, any limits. In this atmosphere of violence, charity is the language that everybody can and must understand.”
The patriarch said he appreciates the value of all the pilgrims who flock to his country every year, and feels they have a message to carry back to the world.
“I ask them, when they go back, to be advocates, to let others know what they have experienced, what they have felt. It must be a point to start again in your life when you come back — enriched by experience, by knowledge, by culture, by love.
“This is our strength,” he said, “We are not alone. We are happy to have the collaboration of the pilgrims and Catholic institutions. I want the American Christian people to be with me, co-responsible for the small Christian community in the Holy Land and the holy places. Holy Land is land AND people.”
The patriarch also stressed the importance of education in achieving understanding and peace. He takes great pride in Jordan’s American University in Madaba that was started two years ago.
“I believe in education. The pope was the one who blessed the cornerstone of the university,” he said. “Now we have about 600 students.”
Speaking of the apostolic exhortation delivered last weekend by the pope, he said the final text was more moderate, more universal, than some of the original proposals that were presented to the Holy Father. The patriarch said it needs to spread to others throughout the region and demands more study.
And he concluded his conversation with us the way he began: by speaking poignantly, and powerfully, about Jerusalem. He will be taking part in the synod on the New Evangelization, and he finds its roots in the very beginnings of the church.
“The Lord is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he said. “We have the same sacraments, same Gospel, same grace, same sin. What is new is the context we have. The mass media. That’s what is new. A good example of first community where they loved each other, where they had a leitmotif where they were disposed to work, to struggle, to sacrifice, that was Jerusalem.”
The key to the New Evangelization?
“We must go back and start again from Jerusalem,” he said.