Custos: Christian division hampers peace and reconciliation in Holy Land

(CNA).- The lack of unity among Christians is one of the factors that keeps them from playing a mediatory role in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, according to the head of the Franciscans in the Middle East.

“Here in the Holy Land, we Christians are irrelevant. There are too few of us. In addition, we are confessionally divided,” Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M., Custos of the Holy Land, told Aid to the Church in Need’s Oliver Maksan Dec. 2.

“We can’t even agree on who cleans what in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. How then are we supposed to be a model for unity and reconciliation?”

This, he said, “is why we cannot be the ones to build the bridge. However, we can of course provide opportunities for encounters. After all, every church has interreligious fora. However, I don’t believe that there is very much else we can do.”

Violence between Israelis and Palestinians was heightened in 2014 relative to recent years: the outbreak of war in the summer killed nearly 2,000 people. Peace talks had been broken off earlier in the year, and terror attacks have taken place in Jerusalem more recently.

“We are doubtlessly far away from peace,” Fr. Pizzaballa commented. “I can’t see that there is any possibility of changing the situation in the near future. There is deep-seated frustration and a profound lack of mutual trust between these two peoples.”

Rebuilding trust “will take a long time,” he said. “And there are no easy solutions. What we are seeing at the moment is…