The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has said that clericalism is "very evident" in the Holy Land.

Preaching on New Year's Day at the Latin Patriarchate Co-Cathedral in Jerusalem, Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa said "it is no secret that there is a certain distance between the clergy and the laity, and this is certainly not unique in our Church. It is a common theme for many churches in the world."

"The collaboration between priests and laity is often misunderstood and ends up becoming: 'simply do what the priest wants,'" the patriarch said Jan. 1.

He encouraged a greater active participation from the laity in the life of the Church. "It is difficult to find formed, committed lay people willing to make a positive contribution to the community. It is a real barrier that needs to be taken into consideration," he said, "especially thinking of the future generation, which wants to be the leaders in the life of the church, and not just executors of orders and directives."

The patriarch's Mass, which was also livestreamed, was offered for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

In his homily, Pizzaballa reflected on the year ahead for the Church in Jerusalem, and the need to reflect on peace "from an internal, ecclesial perspective, linked to our diocesan life."

"It is difficult to speak of peace, when around us we experience the exact opposite," he said, but "I think we can also stop and reflect on the barriers that sometimes unknowingly we erect within ourselves, between us."

He recalled the difficulty of the past year, including the coronavirus pandemic and problems at the diocesan, societal, and political levels.

The patriarch also noted the "long pause" of the vacancy of the seat of the Latin Patriarchate, which lasted from 2016 until Pizzaballa's nomination to the position by Pope Francis in October 2020. Pizzaballa was the diocese's apostolic administrator during the sede vacante.

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"And after an almost total paralysis linked to the pandemic, we must now look forward with confidence and decisiveness to resume the journey of our whole Church," he said.

Besides clericalism, other challenges faced by the Catholic Church in Jerusalem include, he stated, generational conflict and the distinction between locals and foreigners.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem serves an estimated 293,000 Latin Catholics in Israel the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus.

In his homily, Pizzaballa pointed to the difficulties associated with being a diocese covering four countries with four distinct national identities, in addition to navigating language differences.

"National identities are themselves a positive and necessary element and no one questions that," he said. "But just as there are national identities, there is also ecclesial identity, which goes beyond them. There are not four churches, but only one Church, which has different histories and identities within it. All the different identities combine to build a plural, multiform, open and non-monochrome identity of a Church that is not absorbed by identity conflicts."

The solution to all these problems, he proposed, is to start "from our relationship with Christ and not from our needs, placing our heart in the heart of Christ…"

"We cannot live without love and the love from which we have to start is the love of Him who gave his life for us and our salvation. This will be the path that awaits us," he stated.

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