JERUSALEM, JAN. 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Custos of the Holy Land is affirming that his region is looking to Benedict XVI and the Church for support in a difficult situation as Israel announces it will erect another wall.
Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa stated this Monday in an interview publicized by Vatican Radio.
The Pope “never misses an occasion to remind everyone, in all places, of the importance and sensitivity” of the situation in the Middle East, the priest said.
He noted that Israelis and Palestinians of his region are grateful to Benedict XVI for his constant emphasis on the rights of both.
He added that the Pontiff takes every opportunity to underline “the fundamental rights that both peoples have,” doing so “with much clarity.”
That is why the population has “much gratitude” toward him, the Holy Land Custos said.
He affirmed that this Papal support is particularly important at a time when the situation in that region is becoming increasingly complex.
The priest mentioned in particular the Sunday announcement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to build walls along the country’s border with Egypt.
Netanyahu stated that this barrier will be erected to prevent “terrorists” from entering Israel, though he added that refugees from conflict areas will still be allowed to pass through.
The custos affirmed that the wall, which will be modeled on those already existing around the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, will not drastically change the border restrictions.
“Although there is no barrier now, it is already a guarded place,” he explained. “The barrier will serve to accentuate the separation, the impenetrability of the border.”
Israel, Father Pizzaballa pointed out, is already in fact “a separate enclave from the rest of the Middle East.”
This stance, he acknowledged, “has had effects.” He added that “attacks have disappeared almost completely.”
However, the priest continued, the walls are nonetheless detrimental from a social and human perspective.
For the Palestinian population, he said, the effects have been “dramatic, because they are separated from the schools, from work, from activities; whole communities are divided.”
The custos affirmed: “The wall blocks the life of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
“Above all in the areas between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the wall separates children from the school, people from the hospital, men from their workplaces, creating serious problems for normal everyday life.”
In this context, he said, it is necessary “that the Church continue, as the Pope and also the bishops are doing, being present first of all with prayer, but also with strong action geared toward the media and political authorities, so that this reality is not forgotten but is addressed with the necessary serenity.”
The wall between Israel and Egypt will take an estimated two years to build, and up to $400 million.