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Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, April 4, 2021. / Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, May 24, 2021 / 09:46 am (CNA).

The Patriarch of Jerusalem urged peace, mutual understanding, and cooperation among religious groups in his homily on Saturday, underscoring the unique character of the city of Jerusalem and the importance of maintaining peace.

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa noted on May 22, the Vigil of Pentecost, that not only was his flock gathered to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, they were “also here to pray for peace, for justice, and for the end of violence.”

“It is not the first time that exactly on this occasion of the Vigil of Pentecost, we find ourselves praying and supplicating for the end of the war that is in our Land,” he said. “Above all, we are united in prayer with the families of those killed during these past days, with those who lost their homes, with those who are left alone and without any hope in their lives.”

Patriarch Pizzaballa requested prayers for the Christians in Gaza, whom he described as a “small community” that has been “bewildered by this umpteenth wave of violence,” and for all residents of Gaza. He characterized Gazans as people who have “for years been humiliated, deprived of freedom, dignity and basic rights.”

“The present cessation of hostilities has brought perhaps a bit of calm to our families, but it has not resolved the problems from which this violence originated,” he said.

Prior to Pentecost, Pope Francis urged the entire world to unite in prayer with Jerusalem, and for peace in the Holy Land. Patriarch Pizzaballa thanked Pope Francis for his concern, remarking that the pope has “not ceased to desire for peace in the Holy Land, through prayers, initiatives, and continuous reminders.”

“His desire for peace is also ours,” said Patriarch Pizzaballa.

“Together with him and the entire universal Church, we pray here today above all, for our conversion so that we may truly believe that the Holy Spirit would bring about peace,” he said. “I know well that this may be difficult, given our situation, to truly believe it. We pray so that together we may become builders of peace and justice in our Land.”

Patriarch Pizzaballa spoke of the “unique patrimony” of the city of Jerusalem, and said it was the responsibility of religious and secular authorities to protect the sacred land.

“Any appropriation, any division, any gesture of exclusion and rejection of others, any form of violence is a deep wound in the life of the City and a cause of pain to all, because all are part of the one body,” he said. “It is no coincidence therefore that this recent wave of violence in the entire Holy Land originated right here in Jerusalem, only a few metres away from us,” alluding to Sheikh Jarrah, a largely Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that has been at the center of a property dispute.

“Jerusalem is for all: Christians, Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians,” said Patriarch Pizzaballa. “All with equal rights and dignity, all equal citizens.” He added that this balance among religious and ethnic groups has “already been broken many times,” which has led to “pain and frustration.”

“This is not the road to go if we really want peace,” he said.

The recent violence, even in cities where different groups normally live together in harmony, is a “worrying sign” that “indicates a profound unease that everyone must pay attention to,” said Patriarch Pizzaballa.

“We need the Spirit to descend upon everyone so that everyone will realize they are part of one body, with every form of discrimination disappearing and ‘that fair decisions are made for the meek of the earth,’” he said.

“May the Spirit open our eyes so that we can truly recognize in our laws, in our attitudes and our collective and personal choices, the multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-identity reality of our society.”

Patriarch Pizzaballa said it was necessary to condemn not only physical violence, but the “violence which is all too often found in language.”

“An aggressive language leads inevitably to physical violence,” he said. “We must work with people of every faith who still believe in a future together and who strive for it.”

“We must not cultivate nor allow for the development of feelings of hatred,” said the patriarch. “We must not make anyone, be he Jewish or Palestinian, to feel rejected. We must be clearer in denouncing whatever divides. We cannot remain satisfied with inter-religious meetings on peace, thinking that they are enough to resolve the problems of co-existence.”

To do this, he said, will require a commitment to peace in schools, institutes, media, politics, and in places of worship.

“We are not alone. In the Spirit, the Resurrected Lord is among us, consoling us and sustaining us,” he said.

“Let us not then be discouraged. Let us not sadden the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we were sealed,” said Patriarch Pizzaballa. “May every bitterness, anger, hostility and every other negative feeling disappear. Only love, which is synonymous with the Spirit, can change the heart of men.”

“Let us ask this for ourselves, for our Church and for the Church in the world; and let us ask this for our Holy Land, for our governments, our pastors, for those who hold responsibility over peoples and institutions, that they may be led by the love of God more than human reckoning, which cannot produce life as we have seen in these recent days.”

Patriarch Pizzaballa prayed that the Holy Spirit “make us understand and enlighten our personal and ecclesial vocations in this social context of ours which is both wounded and wearied,” and that “it make us able to accept our realities without lies or delusions, putting words of consolation in our lips, giving us courage to defend justice without compromising the truth.”

“May it enable us to forgive,” he said.

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