ROME – On a day in which Israel objected anew to efforts by Christian leaders to be even-handed in their approach to the new war with Hamas, the pope’s top diplomat said that until the deeper Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, there’s a perennial risk that such acts “will repeat themselves with ever great ferocity.”
“The international community, with the instruments it has at its disposal, needs to try to lay the basis for a definitive solution to this problem,” said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
“Until the problem of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians is resolved, until a formula is found to allow them to live in peace, there’s always the risk that these things will repeat themselves with ever great ferocity,” he said.
Parolin spoke briefly to reporters on the margins of a conference at Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University devoted to the papacy of Pius XII, the wartime pontiff whose alleged “silence” on the Holocaust long has been a source of friction in Catholic-Jewish relations.
Parolin spoke shortly after the Israeli embassy to the Holy See issued a press release critical of an Oct. 7 statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, a body which brings together Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican leaders.
“Our faith, which is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, compels us to advocate for the cessation of all violent and military activities that bring harm to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians,” the Church leaders said.
The Israeli embassy accused that statement of reflecting “immoral linguistic ambiguity.”
“From reading it, there is no way to understand what happened, who were the aggressors and who the victims,” the embassy’s communique said. “It is especially unbelievable that such a sterile document was signed by people of faith.”
Referring to the Gregorian conference on papacy of Pius XII and the legacy of the Holocaust, the embassy communique asserted, “Apparently, a few decades later there are those who still did not learn the lesson of the recent dark past.”
That communique came on the heels of an Oct. 7 statement from the Israeli embassy deploring “linguistic ambiguities and terms that allude to a false symmetry,” insisting that Israel is engaged in legitimate self-defense that as the “suggesting parallelisms where they don’t exist is not diplomatic pragmatism, it’s simply wrong.”
Asked about the new communique from the embassy, Parolin repeated his insistence on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
“We need to find a way to resolve this vexing, tragic problem of relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis on the basis of justice,” said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin. “Only this can produce a lasting peace, a peaceful and fruitful coexistence between the two peoples.”
Earlier, Parolin himself referred to conference’s focus on the horrors of the Second World War.
“We’re talking about an extremely dark period of human history, no? The tragedies that happened in the 20th century, we thought they were things of the past, that they would never be repeated,” Parolin said.
“Instead, we have to note with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that we’re making all the same mistakes as in the past. It’s as if history hasn’t taught us anything. It’s a moment of great disturbance, a tragic moment,” he said.
“There has to be a commitment of all, first of all to limit this conflict that’s broken out in an entirely surprising way. On our part, no one would have imagined that this would break out,” Parolin told reporters.
“We have to activate all the instruments of diplomacy. Right now, it’s difficult to think clearly because everyone’s swept up by emotion about what’s happened. We need a moment of distance to begin to reflect together. First of all, we need to stop what’s happening, but I see that will be very difficult.”
Riccardo di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, said the Hamas attack on Israel “goes beyond any limit of tolerability in terms of the loss of human life and the ferocity with which the crimes were committed.”
Di Segni also spoke to reporters at the Gregorian conference, noting that it fell on the same day in which Rome’s Jewish community observed the 40th anniversary of an attack on the city’s synagogue by Palestinian terrorists which left 37 people injured and a two-year-old infant dead.
“We’re worried about what will come next, which will be dramatic,” Di Segni said, calling for “good actions to work for a better world. It seems a mission impossible, but we have to try.”