Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa participates in the 12th General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches which was launched on Monday, May 16, 2022, and hosted by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, at the Logos Papal Center in Wadi El Natrun, Egypt, under the title of “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader, also participates in the sessions in his capacity as member of executive committee of the general assembly.
In an address delivered on behalf of the Latin Patriarchate, Patriarch Pizzaballa conveyed the greetings of the Christian societies in Jerusalem, the blessed and suffering holy city, noting that it is the first time that he participates in the General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches. His beatitude highly valued all the efforts exerted by this council which are designed to promote the sublime ecumenical spirit, as well as to improve the coordination and cooperation among the various fraternal Churches.
He pointed out that in the time interval between the 2016 General Assembly meeting, which was held in Amman-Jordan, and General Assembly, which is being held in Egypt, many changes have happened and many events have erupted. Yet, all the Churches continued to move forward in order to fulfill their spiritual, educational, and humanitarian procession. He also referred in this regard to the Church's handling of the pandemic ramifications which have severely affected the lives and economies of countries.
He added that "the Latin Patriarchate was close to the faithful and continued the path of giving by providing aid to the poor and the needy, with whatever friends everywhere donated, as well as by refraining from dispensing with any employee of the Latin Patriarchate institutions. Thus, it maintained the salaries and the employees. That is why I say, praise be to God, that we were not far from our people, for despite the social distancing that was required, yet the spiritual and human distancing did not take place between us and our parishioners."
Patriarch Pizzaballa referred to the tense political situation in the Holy Land prevailing several months ago, especially after the martyrdom of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, where the situation deteriorated encompassing the political and security aspects. He pointed out that the events related to the martyrdom of the Christian journalist highlighted the state of unity among all the Palestinian people. The mass funerals that were held in Jerusalem and in various Palestinian areas provide cogent evidence that after several years, the Palestinian cause has finally been restored to the media scene.
His Beatitude Patriarch Pizzaballa did not veil the fact that the spike in political tension snowballed into severe consequences on the Churches' relations with the Israeli authorities. He stressed that the Christian Churches in Jerusalem condemned, last Monday, the police attack on the bearers of the journalist's coffin in front of the Catholic St. Joseph Hospital. Patriarch Pizzaballa said: "The issue of Jerusalem and its political and religious future has become at stake. Therefore, we as Christian Churches cannot remain silent. In fact, the Holy City has a Christian character that must be preserved, kept visible, and respected. The Christian voice about the city of Jerusalem and its cause must be listened to and its message must also be taken into account.”
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem stressed the importance that the activities of Churches should not be confined to the political aspect only, even if this is an inevitable matter in the city of Jerusalem. He said: "We belong to the Risen Lord Jesus, and the Resurrection is the source of our hope. Even if everybody around us speaks of division and exclusion, it is the priority of all Churches to continue working for attaining encounter and reconciliation, by neither allowing hatred to find its way into the people's hearts through their words and their actions nor be guided by grudge. It is really a risk that we want to avoid! We need to constantly ask ourselves how can we live as Christians in the midst of this difficult conflict that would consume much of our energies?"
Patriarch Pizzaballa concluded his address by pointing out that “the empty tomb, the sign of the Resurrection, should remind us all not to be afraid, but to move forward proclaiming the good news of the Holy Gospel, that we have met the Lord and in Him we find our strength.” He also pleaded with God “to help the Middle East Council of Churches and all the numerous and troubled Churches in the Middle East, to remain strong and be committed witnesses to the Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ in our country.”