Age : 27 years old
Job : Student in Latin and Greek
City : Jerusalem
Rite : Latin Catholic
« I feel part of the Church. But I don’t think other people see me as part of that Church »
Are you involved in the Church?
I was born in Ukraine where my mother had me baptised in the Orthodox rite. My family is not very religious at all. My grand-father was Jewish, but not my parents. When I was around 16, I began to be curious about other religions and I went to the Saint James Hebrew speaking Vicariate. I attended mass week after week and my faith grew quite organically. I did a bit of translation work for the Saint James Vicariate and then became a catechism teacher for around 90 kids of migrants and asylum seekers in the community in Tel Aviv. I am also a youth group animator. The whole process was very gradual. Guys like me are a minority. It is a hard transition to do, especially to the Catholic church. Some relate more to the Messianic Jews. It is easier, less foreign.
Do you feel part of the Holy Land Church?
Yes, but it is complicated. There is work to be done about how we can exist as one Church despite the political and social divisions. The fact that I served in the military for 5 years will be a barrier, even though we are fellow Catholics and we belong to the Latin Patriarchate, in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Taybeh… I feel part of the Church. But I don’t think other people see me as part of that Church. I understand it. I understand that someone can feel uncomfortable hearing Hebrew inside a church. They hear Hebrew at checkpoints, or other problematic contexts. It would make sense if they said : “You even come to our churches, at least leave us our churches”.
What bothers you in the way the Church functions nowadays?
I think clericalism is a thing. There is a cheap layer of clericalism, of priests driving BMWs, but the deeper layer of clericalism is the institutional power they have even if they don’t have the skills. A lot of things are assumed, like priests running the educational system. But when you study in a seminary, you don’t study education. A lot of the things we see as dysfunctional inside the Church are related to clericalism. They don’t want to give positions of power to lay people. So they give them to unqualified priests. They are not trained to run hospitals or schools. Another issue is how to give voice to women. It is not accepted here in the Middle East, that women become figures of power. Ok. So challenge the society you live in. When you live in the secular Hebrew society where these topics are very actual, it is even more obvious.
Do you expect something from the synodal process?
The burden of proof is on the members of the hierarchy . We have had so much “blablabla” before. It is time for real change. The problems of the Church have been the same over the last 30 years. We all know them. From the time of John Paul II, they didn’t change. What I expect is something practical. More documents are not going to solve anything. For things to really change, people have to understand that they are the institution they blame. They form it.
Do you have a dream for this Church?
I’ll talk for my community, because it is the reality I know. Until now we have worked with a very low profile, because of the history, of the Holocaust, of the sensitivities… It is possible for the church now to be more prophetic, and to start slowly to speak out, be more confident, but not in an imperialist way. Our faithful are about to be deported because they have no papers. The church should say something and not be afraid.
Interview by Cécile Lemoine