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Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, January 1, 2024.Facebook

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JERUSALEM (LifeSiteNews) — The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has issued yet another call for peace in the beleaguered region, noting in his New Year’s homily that “peace…requires a path of conversion.”

Delivering his homily on January 1, for the Novus Ordo feast of Mary the Mother of God, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa renewed his oft-repeated calls for “peace” in the Middle-East, linking this to a need for “conversion.”  

Commenting how he would not “enter into judgments and evaluations of the situation we are experiencing,” referencing the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, Pizzaballa pointed to Catholicism as the solution.

“Here, today, we must and will turn our gaze to Christ and draw from Him the strength we need to intensify our trust, wounded by so much pain,” he stated. 

“Christ is our peace. We know it and we believe it,” said the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, created cardinal by Pope Francis in September. He noted a contradiction between “what we believe and affirm” and “what we actually experience,” since “everything today speaks of division, hatred, resentment, mistrust.”

Describing war as the “natural environment” of man, Pizzaballa warned that “when God is used to justify power choices of any kind, the world is easily at the mercy of those who want to divide and destroy.”

READ: How do Christians in the Holy Land understand the Israeli occupation of Palestine?

Referring back to Christmas, Pizzaballa linked the promotion of peace to the Christian life: “Christ’s birth did not erase evil, but it gave expression and made visible once and for all that desire for peace and life that subsists in our heart and in the heart of every man.”

But he opined that a proper understanding of peace had been lost, as people “increasingly confuse peace with victory. It is a misunderstanding that recurs often, perhaps not only in the Middle East.”

Consequently, he called for a renewed understanding of peace, renewing a plea he has repeatedly made in recent weeks, and linking it to “conversion:”

Peace, then, the real peace, the peace built on a sincere desire for encounter, welcome and fraternity, necessarily also requires a path of conversion. It involves first of all changing one’s way of thinking, freeing one’s heart from the spirit of violence, conquest and revenge. 

We all need conversion, to purify our way of looking at the events of life, to build contexts of beauty. There is no peace without conversion. We cannot live and speak of peace if our hearts are not turned to God, if our lives are not truly inhabited by his presence, if we do not feel the need to ask, day after day, for his forgiveness. If we are not capable of gestures of tenderness and trust.

Pizzaballa has highlighted the plight of the Christian community in the Middle East, decrying recent attacks made upon innocent Catholics by Israeli forces. 

READ: Israeli forces kill two Christian women in Gaza parish, destroy convent: Jerusalem Patriarchate

He echoed this theme in his January 1 message, stating how he was “more and more convinced that in this complex context, the main vocation and mission of the small Christian community is precisely this: to cherish the desire for encounter, to cultivate freedom in relation to all, to overcome ethnic, religious and identity boundaries of various kinds that, while not written down, are nevertheless rigidly written in the consciousness of these our peoples.”

Christianity, he said, crucially involves seeing Christ in others: “The Christian difference lies in our choices of reconciliation, of dialogue, of service, of closeness, of peace. For us, the other is not a rival; he is a brother. For us, Christian identity is not a fortification to be defended, but a hospitable home and an open door to the mystery of God and man where all are welcome. We, with Christ, are for all.”

One week prior, during Midnight Mass for Christmas, Pizzaballa highlighted how “the Christian faith and the Christian meaning of Christmas are but a faint memory in today’s secularized and materialistic culture.”

Referencing “all who are affected by this war, in Palestine and Israel and the whole region,” Pizzaballa later closed his homily with his same call for a renewed Christian life in the area as a way to attain peace:

May Christ be born anew in this land, His and ours, and may the way of the Gospel of peace for the whole world begin again from here! May He be reborn in the hearts of those who believe in Him, moving them to witness and mission, without the fear of night and death! May He also be reborn as a desire for peace and goodness, truth and justice, in the hearts of those who do not yet believe!

Cardinal Pizzaballa, has repeatedly called for peace in the region, even offering himself in exchange for Israeli hostages to halt the conflict.

He has previously said that “only by ending decades of [Israeli] occupation” will a “serious” peace process begin.

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