Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, patriarch of Jerusalem, delivers his homily while celebrating Mass in Rome to formally take possession of his titular church, the Church of St. Onuphrius on the Janiculum, May 1, 2024. CNS photo/Lola Gomez

Cardinal says church shouldn't expect 'miracle' of peace in Holy Land

By  Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
  • May 1, 2024

Sudden peace negotiations or an intervention by the United States will not deliver Israelis and Palestinians from the suffering caused by the war in Gaza, a Jerusalem-based cardinal said.

As a result of the war, the rift between Israelis and Palestinians is "deeper than it has ever been," Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, patriarch of Jerusalem, said May 1.

"We are all waiting for something big, something that changes the course of the history of events," he said in his homily during a Mass to formally take possession of his titular church in Rome. "We all want the United States to resolve the problem; we all want the peace negotiations to end in something big, important, in a way that marks the course of history."

But "this is not the way the kingdom of God grows," he said. "The kingdom of God grows in community, with communal gestures, calmly, little by little."

The kingdom of God is not "a miracle that is performed, suddenly changing the fate of the world," the cardinal said, rather it is "a seed sown in the ground that dies and little by little grows and bears fruit." The Catholic Church, he added, is called to be that slowly but steadily growing seed.

Cardinal Pizzaballa preached before a packed congregation in the small, historic Church of St. Onuphrius on the Janiculum Hill in Rome as he formally took possession of the church, a tradition meant to seal his identity as a member of the clergy of Rome. In ancient times, the cardinals who elected popes were pastors of the city's parishes.

Knights and dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, dressed in their ceremonial capes, joined the cardinal for the celebration. The ancient Catholic chivalric order supports the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem with prayers, financial assistance and regular pilgrimages. Cardinal Fernando Filoni, grand master of the order, participated in the Mass as did Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, vice dean of the College of Cardinals.

The congregation at the Mass also included Franciscan friars, the order to which Cardinal Pizzaballa belongs. The Church of St. Onuphrius, established in 1439, has been under the care of Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, a religious congregation founded in the United States, since 1946.

Joe Donnelly, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, was also present for the Mass.

After the Mass, Cardinal Pizzaballa told reporters that he struggles to understand the protests taking place across college campuses in the United States over academic institutions' investments in companies that do business with Israel.

"Universities are places where cultural debate, even when heated, even when tough, should be available at 360 degrees," he said. "The contrast of completely different ideas, harsh as they may be, must be expressed not through violence or boycotting, but by knowing how to confront one another."

"The world is made of different opinions that must be confronted, not by explosions but by discussions," he said.

The Mass began with the reading of the formal declaration from Pope Francis assigning the church to Cardinal Pizzaballa when he was made a cardinal Sept. 30, 2023.

"It's stupendous that the pope thought that the patriarch of Jerusalem should be a cardinal," said Cardinal Filoni while greeting Cardinal Pizzaballa on behalf of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre at the close of Mass. "Today it unites Jerusalem, the Holy Land and the patriarchate which you represent, with the church of Rome."

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