Lenten letter from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
- Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Letter for Lent 2001
Brothers and Sisters,
1. The peace of Christ be with you. . . .
2. Over the past few days I have visited some parishes in Palestine and I
listened to the faithful. I also listened to the civil authorities. Their
language is that of all the parishes, their concerns are the concerns of
all of you. The first concern, which comprises all the others, is the
difficult political situation these days: the closed roads, the blockade
imposed on the towns and villages, the lack of work, the continual Israeli
bombardment, the destruction of houses, and in addition, the difficulties
within Palestinian society, and finally, the idea of emigration.
Nonetheless, I saw, despite the trials, the anxieties and the idea of
emigration, the basic will to stand firm and to patiently wait until our
liberty is returned to us and until the image of God in us and also in
those who oppress us is manifested.
3. Concerning emigration, we add our voice to the voice of all those who
are patient, and we say to you: Brothers and sisters, do not leave your
land. Be patient. It is here that God wants you, as believers in Him and
witnesses of Jesus Christ in His land. Stand firm around the Holy Places.
In this land, you are a part of the mystery of God in it. Try to reflect on
this so that you might be able to see God and neighbour and understand the
meaning of our presence here. You have been called to a difficult life: do
you have the courage to accept the difficult life to which God is calling
you? Some say: "The future is not clear". The future depends on what you do
today and on what you fear to do. Why leave to others the making of your
future? This is a time when the believers say, with the freedom of children
of God, what they want to express and thus contribute effectively towards
the construction of their future, founded on the solid bases of peace,
justice and love.
4. Furthermore, know that our help comes from one another and from our
love for each other. If someone is in need, let them search out those in
greater need than they are. Let them then bring the necessary help from the
little or the lot that they possess. To all those who are hungry, we say
that we want to share your hunger and share our bread with you. We invite
the faithful in all our parishes and the religious to share their bread
with those who are in need, either by inviting them to their tables or by
covering the costs of daily food through contributions to Caritas or to
some other philanthropic organisation. We are living through a war which
has been imposed on us. We must adapt ourselves and our way of living to
privations and to generosity with regard to all our brothers and sisters in
5. As regards the houses which continually undergo the Israeli bombardments,
we say to the Israelis: Destroy our churches but spare the homes of our
faithful. If you must impose, at any price, collective punishment and if
there needs be a ransom in order to procure the tranquillity of innocent
children and families, we offer our churches: Destroy them; we will find
other places in which to pray and we will continue to pray for ourselves
and for you. And to the Palestinian militants who think that it is
necessary to direct their fire against the Israelis from populated houses,
even when the orders are clear: Do not transform peaceful homes into a
line of fire - to them too we say: Obey the orders, preserve the cohesion
of Palestinian society, and spare the homes of the innocent. We agree to
offer our churches as ransom for any house that they want to demolish.
However, we cannot agree to the demolition of the homes of our children so
that they be forced to abandon their land.
6. During these days, we pray and we walk the way of repentance in order to
go to meet God. We say to every Palestinian and to every Israeli who loves
peace and asks for security: Try to see God with us. To the Israelis we
say: In the sight of God, try to see that the Christian or Muslim
Palestinian is not the image that you have decided to see: they are neither
terrorists nor people who want to hate and kill. Try to see that your
occupation of their land since 1967, the privation of their liberty, and,
today, the blockade of the towns and villages with all the suffering that
results, leads to that which you call terrorism. In fact, this is the cry
of the poor and the oppressed who are demanding their liberty and their
dignity. Remember this and be just today. That which you call security
measures is simply an invitation to more violence. Give back the land to
its owners, give them back their liberty, listen to the voice of the
oppressed and the poor for it is lifted up to God and God will listen one
day and answer this cry.
7. To all those who suffer among our children, we say: Be patient. We
remind you of the difficult commandment, love your enemies. "Love your
enemies and pray for your persecutors, in order to become children of your
Father who is in heaven, for He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the
good and makes rain fall on the just and the unjust" (Mt 5:44-45). Love is
not a weakness nor an escape. It is the vision of the face of God in every
person, both Palestinian and Israeli. The Israeli who withholds our
liberty remains a carrier of the image of God. With this vision I purify
my heart of all anger and I ask the Israeli, with the force of the spirit
and the truth, to put an end to the oppression, to end the occupation of
the land and the privation of liberty.
We ask for justice and peace because God is justice and peace. For this we
pray and we fast during these days in order to purify ourselves of our sins
and in order to co-operate with God in the construction of our new history.
Here, in our land, God was revealed and He manifested His love for all
humanity. Let us ask God to introduce us into the depths of His mystery so
that we might see Him and love Him: thus we will be able, all of us
together, to see Him in all of His creatures and to love Him in all of His
children, in justice, equity and mercy.
I ask God to give you the force of the spirit and of love so that you will
all be ready to welcome the glory of the Resurrection. Amen.
+ Michel Sabbah, Patriarch
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