'May Jerusalem be the Capital of the World!'

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Tells ZENIT About His Expectations for Pope Francis’ Visit to the Holy City

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“We are living Holy Week, but we also feel the weight of Good Friday and the divisions of Christians” His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal tells ZENIT ahead of the Holy Father’s trip to the Holy Land, adding that “the conversion of hearts will help to pull down the walls that divide Jerusalem.” 

ZENIT: How is Holy Week being lived in Jerusalem while awaiting the Holy Father?

–Fouad Twal: This year we are happy to be able to celebrate Holy Easter at the same time as the Eastern confessions. I myself tried last year to make a first attempt and, after some resistance, now there is a specific and established protocol. Therefore, on Sunday we begin Holy Week with the great Procession of Palms to the heart of Jerusalem. It was lovely to see the participation of all parishes and parishioners, young people, scouts …. It was a Christian presence in this world, our world, which is somewhat agitated. 

Among other confessions, we Christians must be “the salt of the earth,” which gives flavor and another tone, in regard to the violence and anxiety. This week in Jerusalem is a grace for pilgrims who come once in their life. We, who live in the Holy Places, must measure up to the grace that is given to us by the Lord. 

I cannot forget that, beside the Resurrection there is a situation which isn’t good: the violence in the whole of the Middle East, the refugees. Through ZENIT, we would like to make an appeal for international norms to be respected. We are living, in fact, Holy Week, but we also feel the weight of Good Friday, of the Via Crucis, and of the divisions of Christians. 

ZENIT: You have written a book entitled “Jerusalem, Capital of Humanity.” This city is a mosaic of cultures and peoples, but this richness can also be transformed into conflicts or be the source of incomprehension. How, then, can Christianity give hope, taking into account such a complex international situation? 

–Fouad Twal: According to the Gospel, there are no limits to acceptance, to forgiveness, to love and simplicity. I would like Jerusalem to have these characteristics, to be a capital for humanity, for all religions. Jerusalem must be a Mother Church that receives all believers of the world. 

However, there is a mystery in this city: Jerusalem unites all believers but, at the same time, it divides them. This is the mystery that we are unable to understand! However, we must accept our inability to understand and entrust our destiny to the Lord. Coming down last Sunday from the Mount of Olives, I could not but remember that Jesus himself wept over this city. He first of all wished to gather the children of Jerusalem. Now it is up to us to pray and hope for the destiny of this city. 

ZENIT: It is undeniable that real and ideological walls divide Israel …

–Fouad Twal: ‘The wall of shame’ — this is how the Italians call it, who have a sense of humor. And these walls can be seen! And we are also somewhat forgotten by the international press, which prefers to concentrate on other current subjects. However, in my opinion, the physical walls are easy to pull down. More difficult it is to pull down the walls that are in man’s heart: hatred, fear, injustice. We are now beginning to use a Christian phrase which is “conversion of hearts.” This is the key to pull down the walls of man’s heart, of fear and of hatred. 

ZENIT: Beginning, perhaps, with us Christians, how do you regard the Holy Father’s steps towards rapprochement with the Eastern Churches? 

–Fouad Twal: One of our crosses here in the Holy Land is also the division of Christians. We have three great families, the Catholic, the Orthodox and the Reformers. We are thirteen Churches in total, each one with its own administration. Through our institutions, the Catholic Church has broken down these divisions, because we accept all Christians. 

Before God and history, I feel responsible for the whole Christian community in the Holy Land, regardless of the rite. A rite can be richness, but it can never be a source of division. With the arrival of the Holy Father, who wishes to commemorate the meeting of 1964 (between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, ndr), I hope that this ecumenical movement will take on new life and hope. 

ZENIT: Have you been able to meet directly with Pope Francis?

–Fouad Twal: We have already prepared the trip and I have already met him about five times in Rome. This is a pastoral visit for unity, however it is difficult not to consider also the political impact. Corresponding to any address necessarily is a real situation of the social and political life of every day. People easily forget addresses. We often pause on the exterior aspect of a meeting with the Holy Father and it is a sin. However, many Christians will take the message from the Pope’s very person, his humbe attitude, his closeness to the people, which characterize him. 

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Giorgia Innocenti

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