In the run-up to the consistory on September 30, 2023, I.Media met with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, at a press briefing held on September 28 at the Holy See Press Office.
The 58-year-old newly named cardinal, an Italian national, discusses some of the current issues in the Holy Land, such as anti-Christian violence and the increasingly delicate situation of the Palestinians.
A cardinal in Jerusalem
Why did Pope Francis want to give Jerusalem a cardinal?
Patriarch Pizzaballa: You’d have to ask him! Knowing Pope Francis’ style, I believe that Jerusalem, in addition to being the heart of the world, is a peripheral place. It’s a place on the periphery where there’s an ongoing conflict, where religious tensions are the order of the day, where there are very significant social and economic inequalities. So he wanted to give a voice and attention to this phenomenon.
At the UN, Archbishop Gallagher publicly denounced anti-Christian acts perpetrated by Jewish extremists. Does this phenomenon worry you? Do you expect more from the Israeli authorities on this subject?
Patriarch Pizzaballa: Acts against Christians are nothing new in the Holy Land. Perhaps the frequency of these acts is something new. It’s important to give voice to this phenomenon because it’s important to create a timely mentality that condemns and challenges it. And then we need to work with the police to prevent these things from happening again, but above all with religious authorities, political authorities, and educational authorities. We need to teach young people in particular — because it’s young people who are doing these things — that respect must be part and parcel of life in Jerusalem’s multi-religious society.
A dignified solution for the Palestinian people
At the UN, Vatican diplomats also denounced “the increasingly authoritarian and militarily invasive attitude of the State of Israel.” Does this attitude worry you?
Patriarch Pizzaballa: As long as there is no dignified solution for the Palestinian people, we will always have this situation where military violence becomes the most listened-to, most visible, most present voice. We have to work to start talking again about a solution for the Palestinian people, which is the basis for ending this violence, this military authority.
The Holy See regularly laments the fact that peace in the Holy Land is making no headway. It’s been 30 years since the Oslo Accords were signed… How can we keep hope alive for this land when tensions continue to rise and conditions for the Palestinians deteriorate year by year?
Patriarch Pizzaballa: The goal of our activity must not be the result. Because if we wait for the result, we’ll always be frustrated. The motivation that must move us is the desire to do good, to build good. And that never ends. Even if we have to start from scratch every day, we have to do it.
You often talk about interreligious dialogue as being part and parcel of daily life in the Holy Land. Have there been any recent developments?
Patriarch Pizzaballa: Interfaith dialogue is continuing. I’ve noticed that after the attacks on Christians, the reaction in the Jewish world has been very good, and this has created further opportunities for meetings and awareness of the need to work together.