Home Equality & Justice Fr. Patton calls for leadership and reconciliation amid Holy Land conflict

Fr. Patton calls for leadership and reconciliation amid Holy Land conflict

Father Francesco Patton, the Custos of the Holy Land, recently spoke to Vatican Media about the challenges facing the region amid ongoing conflict. 

He emphasized the need for leaders on both sides to prioritize reconciliation and work toward a lasting peace.

Fr. Patton highlighted the changing atmosphere in Jerusalem since October 7th, noting a breakdown in trust between the Jewish-Israeli and Arab-Israeli communities. 

He mentioned that “a balance within the State of Israel, between the Jewish-Israeli component and the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli component has been broken.” 

Increased restrictions on movement between Israel and the West Bank, as well as within the country itself, have made Arab-Israelis feel less secure in daily life. 

According to Fr. Patton, “Several of our Christians told me: ‘When I walk around the city, in Jerusalem, I avoid speaking Arabic.’ This says a lot about the climate that has been created.”

The war’s impact extends to all aspects of life. Fr. Patton described the emotional toll of the hostage crisis and ongoing destruction in Gaza. 

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“The Palestinian component obviously feels solidarity with Gaza. They belong to the same people and they suffer from seeing so much destruction,” he said, adding that “35,000 dead, of these probably more than 15,000 are children.” 

Violence by settlers in the West Bank has worsened tensions, making recovery and reconciliation difficult. “Farmers who went to pick olives… met settlers who then shot at them,” he said.

Despite the wounds caused by recent attacks and the violence that followed, Fr. Patton reiterated the importance of the Two-State solution. 

He stressed that this framework, long supported by the Vatican, remains crucial for a stable peace, even if achieving it is now more challenging. 

A comprehensive solution requires cooperation from both sides and support to resolve issues of security, autonomy, and mutual recognition. 

“It is certainly more difficult now than it was ten or twenty years ago. But, at the same time, there is now an awareness that the Palestinian question must have a political solution,” the priest said.

He also discussed the position of Christians in the Holy Land. Torn between different allegiances, many are pressured to take sides. 

However, Fr. Patton believes Christians should be “women and men of peace” and contribute to reconciliation, despite frustrations arising from the conflicting perceptions they face from both the Jewish and Arab communities.

Fr. Patton called for reconciliation and forgiveness, recognizing the long journey ahead. He urged leaders to follow the example of post-war Europe, sharing resources rather than fighting over them. 

“To rebuild houses, financial aid is enough; to rebuild peace in hearts, much more time is needed,” he said. 

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