Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Meeting with Bishop Fouad Twal

On Tuesday 4 December, following our meeting with His Excellency Msgr Antonio Franco, we literally walked up the street from our hotel to an audience with Bishop Fouad Twal, the soon-to-be Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 2008 he will take on the primary responsibility for his church in the territories of Israel, Palestine and Cyprus.

We met for an hour with Bishop Twal in the formal meeting rooms of the Concathedral Church in the Old City. We were served grapefruit juice and chocolates while the saints and apostles stared down at us from whitewashed walls. Bishop Twal appeared deeply grateful that we had come from Australia to encourage the Christians and listen to their experiences and plight. It was clear from the start that he is no fence-sitter. He is also a charismatic and compelling story-teller.

He bluntly declared that "what we have here is apartheid." It was suggested that Israel was founded and still maintains its identity as a victim, though it is strong; Bishop Twal agreed, saying Israel was united by security concerns and could not survive without enemies. "Israel wins wars but has never won peace," he said

On Annapolis, he suggested there were many obstacles to peace including a lack of trust between Israel and Palestine, and political complexity in the US where Democrats are unwilling to gift George W. Bush with a peace breakthrough. He identified Israel with security, Palestine with resistance, and Christians with reconciliation

One story he told was of an Israeli politician who insisted he was committed to the peace process, to which Bishop Twal replied, "Forget the process; can you go straight to the peace?"

Another story he told was of a recent visit to inaugurate a new hospital lectureship in the Palestinian Territories, along with an 82-year-old priest. Their diplomatic car, with special plates and flags, was stopped at a checkpoint and the soldier told him he could proceed with his car, "but not the priest." This was despite the fact that the priest was carrying his Israeli identity card; the soldier demanded a special certificate. Bishop Twal complained by phone to someone in authority, and ten minutes later they were both waved through the checkpoint. Stories like these, and much worse (including death from illness and childbirth at checkpoints), happen frequently in Palestine

In summary, Bishop Twal said, "We want to give the Holy Land its holiness, its vocation, where every believer can come to pray ... Your coming as a delegation before Christmas means a lot to us." He encouraged us to consider prayer, pilgrimage and projects in support of Palestinian Christians.

Pictured (L-R): Rev Rod Benson, Archbishop Frank Carroll, Mr Lyndsay Farrell, Bishop Fouad Twal, Rev Gregor Henderson, Rev Merrill Kitchen, Mr Kevin Bray, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a one-sided and biased article that only flames Israelis. The fact that the Bishop is Catholic doesn't change the fact that he is Arab. Two different things. I wish the Catholic Church would have made the successor to Jerusalem someone who came from a different part of the world. Only then would we really be able to have a chance for direct peace talks. It's a shame really... the Catholic Church could have really done something with the opportunity given by Sabbah's retirement.