Jerusalem: Easter message from Latin Patriarch

 Christ has truly risen (Lk 24, 1-52). Let us rejoice. Yes, in the midst of all of our present trials, we are invited to rejoice and to live our lives to the full. In this Easter message, I wish to speak about three topics: the pastoral renewal of our parishes, the relations of Christians within their society and, finally, the conflict and peace. 1. Pastoral renewal of our parishes Easter carries a message of new life for everyone, first of all, for our pastoral life which is trying to put into effect the work accomplished by the Synod of the Catholic Churches. The renewal of parish life is especially in the hands of the pastors and of all those who help them, parochial vicars, religious men and women, and faithful. We are in need of renewal. We are in need of a Resurrection in all areas of our life. We cannot continue to live in the past. We must live in the present and courageously prepare for the future. A fundamental change involves the willingness of pastors to share and collaborate. They must know how to share with the faithful not only material goods to answer the needs of the poor but also the management of a parish and the proclamation of the Good News to all, while at the same time remaining present to all of society and to each and every person, even to those who do not belong to our Church or who do not share our faith. But another fundamental change is also needed: any given society must be built up by all of its members without distinction. The Word of God, the Good News of the Resurrection, with all of its joy and hope, is meant for everyone. It cannot be limited to one's parish. It is a common good that belongs to all of society. The one who carries the Good News must know how to have others share in its joy while respecting their identities and the various differences that exist within society. 2. Relations of Christians within their society The question of the relations of Christians within their society recently came to the fore during the tensions between Druze and Christians in the village of Maghar in Galilee, Israel. A quarrel arose, as can happen anywhere. But what is not normal is that tensions continue to exist and that reparations and reconciliation have not yet taken place. Also, what is not normal is that, from the very beginning of the tensions, the civil authorities did not protect all of their citizens. All of this has led Christians in Galilee that they have to rethink their presence in society and the means they should take to protec themselves. Concerning this entire problem, we have this to say. First, the State must do its duty by assuring the security of all of its citizens. Second, Christians, for their part, must surely find the means to survive, but without creating physical, psychological or sectarian or even political ghettos. It is by opening themselves to all of society, by entering into dialogue with all groups, Muslims, Druzes and Jews and with the State itself, that this must be accomplished. The road ahead is long. But it must be undertaken. Third, in order to assure their survival and their growth in society, Christians must see in the commandment of love that Jesus Christ has given them a spiritual strength that helps them face their situation and find solutions, but without weakening or giving up their rights. This requires an authentic personal Christian life. Today, Jesus' Resurrection reminds us all that we need to resurrect to a new life. All of our relations between different communities and religions are in need of a new life, but, for this to happen, we need a new education based on openness to others and on mutual respect. Christians, for their part, must realize that the way to the Resurrection is the cross. Their life, like that of all human beings, is an ongoing struggle to do what is right and to collaborate with dignity with one's brothers and sisters of all communities and religions. 3. The question of the conflict and peace These days we are experiencing a time of relative tranquility and witnessing an express desire to reach peace, at least on the Palestinian side. But challenging this desire are insurmountable problems that seem to be emerging on the Israeli side: the further expansion of the settlements rather than their being halted or abandoned, the continued siege of Palestinian cities which remain prison-cities, the political prisoners who seem to be forgotten, to say nothing of all the major questions that must be treated before a final accord can be reached. On the Palestinian side, discordant voices seem to be threatening the decision to demand rights without having recourse to violence. Regardless, this desire for peace must be encouraged and supported. The security of Israel is a priority, but so are the security and the independence of a Palestinian State. And the two are interdependent. One cannot come about without the other. Freedom must be the same for all, for the strong as well as for the weak. The strong cannot seek, just because they are stronger, to eliminate the weak or to force them into a submission that runs contrary to the dignity of persons or nations. Force can impose facts; but, if it does, human dignity will seek vengeance and remain a menace and a source of insecurity for the strong. It is time to become convinced that neither party can live at the expense of the other. Moreover, it is useless to seek to make peace with the region before solving the core of the conflict which is between Palestinians and Israelis. Trying to make peace with the neighbours will only exacerbate the conflict in the Holy Land. This conflict must be resolved first because peace throughout the region depends on the peace of Jerusalem. Christ has truly risen (Lk 24, 1-52). Let us rejoice. Yes, in the midst of all of our present trials, we are invited to rejoice and to live our lives to the full. Have a Joyous and Holy Easter. +Michel Sabbah, Patriarch

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