Custos of the Holy Land: 'To Be a Christian, We Must Pass by the Cross'

Father Pizzaballa Says All Religious Communities «Must Denounce» What’s Happening in Iraq and Syria

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As violence in the Middle East escalates daily, the Custos of the Holy Land has said that rather than further discuss the problems, it’s important to look at what must be done, how people can co-exist, and raise voices against the violence.

Speaking at Communion and Liberation’s annual ‘Meeting’ in Rimini, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa declared: «All religious communities have to denounce what’s happening in Iraq and Syria.”

The Aug. 24-28 conference started Sunday with a Mass, and was followed by various press conferences with senior Church and religious leaders, as well as industry and business chiefs. The week also features exhibitions, performances, and many other events.

Speaking on the current situation in the Middle East, the priest of the Order of Friars Minor, long considered one of the leading Christian religious authorities in the Middle East, said it’s not necessary to speak about the problems, as the media has that covered, but rather we must look at how to resolve them.

“It’s not enough just to denounce what’s happening,” he said, “We need to give a way and a path.”

Having recently visited Syria’s second largest city Aleppo, Father Pizzaballa pointed out positives among the negatives, such as collaboration between Christians and Muslims.

In the Syrian city, he said, there isn’t water. The only place to obtain it is from a well, but the only ones are either privately owned or belong to an important institution, like a church.

Given this, the Christians and Muslims are working together so people can have water.

“The Jesuits,” he added, “are doing a beautiful service,” recently opening a canteen at which nuns prepare the food, which is brought in by Muslims.

He then turned to the roots of Christianity, saying faith is born through a Cross and a human victory.

“The Cross was a human failure, but Christianity was a human victory,» he said.

Remember, he stressed, «to be a Christian, we must pass by the Cross.”

After recalling when the Apostles were on the boat and Jesus was asleep, he said, “Now, Jesus asks us the same question as He asked the Apostles:  ‘Why do you have so little faith?’”

“We forget,” he said, “Jesus is with us. Jesus has won over evil, and evil can’t do anything to counter Christ’s victory.”

Father Pizzaballa reminded those gathered of alternatives to fighting. When Pope Francis and the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew embraced during the Pope’s April visit to the Holy Land, it was important because “it was organized by the two Churches together” and was the first time that “the two religions came together like this in a place which has always been marked by division.”

Turning to the June Invocation for Peace held at the Vatican with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, he said that one must not think that just because of the ongoing violence, that this event was ineffective.

“In spite of the continued fighting, it showed that it is possible to love,” which, he continued, “will be the strength to the Middle East.”

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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