"The thing that worries me most is the speech that the pope will deliver here. One word for the Muslims and I'm in trouble; one word for the Jews and I'm in trouble. At the end of the visit the pope goes back to Rome and I stay here with the consequences."When asked what problem he'd like the papal pilgrimage to resolve, the patriarch replied: "The roadblocks."
The difficulties in mobility are embittering the lives of the Palestinians in general and weighing heavily on the functioning of the church, he says.In the remainder of his lengthy interview, Twal addressed the strengthening of Islamic extremists and the weakening of a central authority in Palestine ("When Islam gets stronger we suffer"); the situation of Christians in Gaza (""We aren't a threat and we're also not an electoral asset") and his furvent appeal to the Israeli government:
"It is hard to move priests, it is hard to move nuns among hospitals. It is hard to get to funerals, it is hard to come to weddings. The entire functioning of our priesthood is hampered," he said.
However, Twal acknowledges that there is another aspect to this difficulty, which is even more distressing.
"I have a hard time with the total distrust that the government of Israel evinces towards us," he said. "You can trust us and you can even get help from us."
"We need you, but you also need us," he says. "It isn't clear to me why the government of Israel doesn't understand that it cannot separate its attitude towards the local Christian population from its relations with the Vatican. The local church and the Vatican - it's one entity. Maybe this is the opportunity to internalize that."Read the rest of Haaretz' exclusive interview with Fouad Twal