Despite more than six decades of conflict in the Holy Land, the leader of Jerusalem’s Catholic community, Patriarch Fouad Twal, remains optimistic about the newest round of negotiations between the Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“We mustn't ever be pessimistic,” he told reporters Oct. 15, in a break between sessions of the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East being held at the Vatican.
Direct talks between Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas broke down Sept. 26, when a Israel began allowing new home-building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel had previously imposed a 10-month freeze on new constructions in an effort to encourage the negotiations. Palestinians have walked away from the talks and said they will not return until Israel halts any building in the disputed territory.
Patriarch Twal said the impasse hurts all parties in the region and said he prays that political leaders will make “courageous steps to give ... inhabitants a little hope and credibility.”
He questioned whether Israelis and Palestinians have the “good will” and mutual respect to find a solution to the conflict, which has strained the region since 1948. As many promises have never been realized, leaders on both sides lack credibility with the people, he explained.
The ongoing synod, the patriarch said, is raising awareness of the Church in the Middle East and helping to build unity with the Church in the West.
He said that after more than six decades of conflict in the region, “we are the Church of Calvary.”
“We entrust everything to the Lord,” he said. “We pray. We wait."
The synod, which runs Oct. 10-24, is an assembly of nearly 200 leading Church bishops from the many Catholic communities in the Middle Eastern lands. They were called by Pope Benedict XVI to examine the situation of Christians in the region and the future of the Church there.