In an interesting interview posted by Arabic language website vaticannews.va, Custos of the Holy Land Brother Francesco Patton discusses the situation in the Holy Land and the Middle East, as well as the importance of pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
In the interview, Br. Patton says that despite the latest wave of violence that engulfed the Middle East region there is always hope for the attainment of peace. Actually, regardless of wars violence and wars that engulf the Middle East, hope on the attainment of peace always lies and never dies.
Touching on the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, Br. Patton underlined the need to restore pilgrimage and tourism particularly during summer 2021 since Christians in several areas, including Bethlehem, rely on pilgrimage to the holy sites as a means for eking out a living. He also hoped that Christians from all over the world would feel the need to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, noting that those who have suffered from the Corona virus should view pilgrimage as a means to thank the Lord for getting through this situation unscathed, while at the same time going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, particularly to Bethlehem, is urgently needed in order to financially help the Christians living there.
It is to be admitted that Christians living in Bethlehem have had hard times over the past year caused by continuous lockdowns designed to curb the spread of the corona pandemic, at the time when they rely basically on tourism as a major source of income.
Stressing that pilgrimage is also important for the Custody of the Holy land, he continued, “There is no doubt that we also need the support of pilgrims so as to be able to continue providing employment for the local population and to be more open to dialogue with others.”
On the situation of the Christians in the Middle East, he noted that three-quarters of Christian Syrians have left their homeland as their number dropped from about 2.2 million people to about 500,000 people. Decrying this situation, he continued that the major part of Christian Syrians who remained in their country is internally displaced as they moved to coastal regions. He also lamented the drop of the Christian population in Aleppo, which stands now at almost 30,000 people dropping from a total of 300,000, and referred to the long queues of Syrians seeking food and medicine.
He also underlined the importance of the remarks made by Apostolic Nuncio to Syria Cardinal Mario Zenari regarding the catastrophic situation there, as well as the importance of Pope’s lamentations which are conveyed to the international community.
Br. Patton thanked God that the Pope is giving a voice to the voiceless in the Middle East as well.
This interview is of prime importance as it further elucidates the situation in the Holy Land in particular and the Middle East in general, and paves the way for people in authority to consider all means to defuse tensions, restore stability, support Christian presence in the Holy Land and the Levant, as well as bring hope for a better future among people who lost everything in life.