The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, said this week that the Church in the Holy Land is awaiting the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI "with joy, hope and enthusiasm: we see in him as a sign of Providence and he comes to pray with us, for all of us, for peace and for all of the inhabitants of the Holy Land."
In dialogue with Vatican Radio, the archbishop explained that the Pope "is a father who will begin encouraging the faithful in Jordan and later will continue to do so here. We must have a big heart and not limit ourselves to small things, to small-mindedness. On the contrary, we must respond to his beautiful gesture with a beautiful gesture of our own through hospitality, welcome and courage."
The Patriarch went on to explain some of the difficulties being experienced by Christians in the Holy Land: "You only have to go to Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to see Calvary; all of the check points that exist." He stressed that Christians also can’t get to the airport, have visa issues and cannot visit their families.
"This is the Calvary of a church, but we can’t forget that Calvary is followed by a resurrection," he said.
Archbishop Twal said that in Jerusalem, "There are only 10,000 Christians, between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, amidst a Muslim community of 250,000 and an Israeli community of 550,000. We do what we can to stop and limit as much as possible the emigration of Christians, but these same Christians need to understand that their presence here is a mission. They should accept the obstacles and not give up because of the problems. This is Holy Land, and here is where our roots are," he said.
After noting that relations with other Christian confessions are good, the Latin Patriarch said, "We need to restore the Holy Land’s vocation to holiness. More than fighting for territory, we need to strive more for holiness, for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for fraternal charity, which we need so greatly. This is what encourages us."