In an interview with the Tarragona Daily in Spain, the Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, said “a real danger exists that the Church could disappear from the Holy Land” and that “the Franciscans could wind up being custodians of a pile of stones.”
The 50-year old Franciscan told the paper, “We ask the nations that have always protected minorities to help protect us, because Christians are a minority in the Holy Land. If the Spanish Constitution includes a commitment to favor minorities, why doesn’t it favor the Christian minority in the Holy Land?”
“Spain has played an important role in preserving the Christian presence in the Holy Land, and we are proud of this. We ask the Spanish government to continue this policy because by preserving the Christian minority, dialogue is also protected and for that reason, peace as well,” said Fr. Rodríguez. He added that “if Christians are not here, not only will our values disappear, I really doubt that this region could ever live in peace.”
“Let’s not forget the Koran defends holy wars against the infidels, let’s not forget that in the Old Testament the law of retaliation is valid—an eye or an eye and a tooth for a tooth—but that all of this has been surpassed by the Gospel and by the commandment of love,” he said.
“Peace,” he continued, “is comes from justice and forgiveness, and therefore gives way to love. It never comes from hatred, revenge, or from an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. In this region where religion plays a fundamental role in politics, we don’t realize that peace is not simply a question of bilateral accords.”
He went on to say, “Peace must be born, must grow and bear fruit, above all in the heart, so it can later be expressed in political accords that are respected. Hence the importance of Christian education of children obtained in the Franciscan schools of the Holy Land. In this way the friars become a bridge of communication between Islam and Judaism.”
The Minister General, who will meet soon with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli President Moshé Katsav, called upon pilgrims from around the world to travel to the Holy Land not only to visit the holy places, but also in solidarity with the Christians of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.