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Christmas Message 2001
by their Beatitudes the Patriarchs
and all the Heads of the
Christian Churches in Jerusalem
"So then brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught... and may Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts". (2Thess 2,15-17)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ,
In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ we greet all of you in this Holy Land. We wish you all a Blessed Christmas and hope that this solemnity will bring us justice and peace. We pray and ask God to grant this precious gift to our troubled Land, to our suffering people and to all the inhabitants in their determined effort towards a just and lasting peace.
We approach the Divine Infant's manger deeply conscious of the sufferings many of you have been called to endure, in these past months and are still enduring, whether through bereavement, injury, unemployment or a multitude of cares and anxieties. Time and again, hope has been raised only to be smashed by daily events. All around us, we still see violence as well as injustice. We observe total disregard for the dignity and worth of human kind as well as injustices and humiliation. All of this we deplore. All of which we believe is contrary to the will of God and the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In recent weeks we have attempted to play our modest part in trying to encourage the resumption of serious peace negotiations; to draw the world's attention to the suffering and hardships faced by so many in this Land and to safeguard the dignity of the Holy Places, now and especially in the future status of Jerusalem, as well as the rights of the Christian communities and churches around them.
Today we renew our appeal to the political Leaders in this Holy Land to stop all kind of violence. So let us start a new era of justice and peace that sees both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, within recognized borders, enjoying safety and tranquility. We launch also an urgent appeal to the International Community to have enough courage to take the right decisions and implement them and so help our peoples to work on their fulfillment.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We have called you and all World Churches to pray for the establishment of justice and peace. You responded to our call and so we prayed together and we asked God to have mercy on his Holy City and all its inhabitants. A few weeks ago, we asked you to join us in our "Solidarity Convoy for Peace" to Bethlehem on the occasion of the hard times that Bethlehem and Christ's manger had to pass through. Again you answered our invitation and we walked to demonstrate our will of peace built on justice and truth according to the angels' song over Bethlehem.
Now, as the Holy Season of Christmas approaches we would encourage everyone of you to stand firm in faith and rooted in your land with the fullness of Christmas joy in your hearts, as we tell you with Saint Paul: "Stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught" (2Thes 2,15). We believe God gave us so much when He gave us Jesus, born in Bethlehem's stable. As the Holy Child grew into manhood and on through his Ministry he revealed to us so much that was in the Father's heart: "No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son who is close to the Father's heart who has made him known" (Jn 1, 18), and he taught us how to see God's will through what happens around us.
Therefore, through our history full of death, destruction and injustice, we can still see God's love for us and for his human children. His love strengthens us and renews our hope, so we persevere in our search for peace and justice. For this reason, despite all the sufferings and sorrows around us we must celebrate with joy this Christmas. We must pray too, that there will be found, on earth, men and women of goodwill, who will listen to the message of the Angels at our Savior's Birth: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is well pleased" (Lk 2,14), and work for God's peace especially in this Holy Land. We must also take great care to direct our children, many of whom have been traumatized by the experience of the past days, towards God's love and care for them so helping them towards a personal relationship to our Father in heaven and to love all their neighbors, through the Infant Jesus in his manger who was born to save all of humanity.
From Bethlehem, the city of the Nativity of Our Lord, we greet our Churches and all our friends across the world and ask that in the midst of their prayers and celebrations they might remember their brothers and sisters with their many needs here in this Holy Land. We also call all our children to accompany their prayers with charity and awareness of the others' needs. We shall pray as well for the dear pilgrims and tell them that the Holy Land is in urgent need to see strong and courageous pilgrims come and witness through their presence, their faith and prayer to its sanctity and message of peace.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We all shall gather around the manger, in Bethlehem but also in our cities and all other localities and shall sing again the songs of love and hope whilst renewing our belief that our Land will some day enjoy justice and peace. May the eyes and hearts of many open to see that injustice should make place for justice and freedom to all. For this we shall pray as we shall pray for our Authorities and for the two peoples to understand that they can live together in peace and that they are called to build together the new society that God wants for the land He has blessed. May Almighty God hear and answer our prayer so that this Land and its entire people may know his love, joy, justice and peace!
May the Lord grant you all a Blessed Christmas and every hope for the New Year, and may God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit bless you!
+ Ireneus, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
+ Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
+ Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
Fr. Giovanni Battistelli, o.f.m., Custos of the Holy Land
+ Anba Abraham, Coptic Archbishop of Jerusalem
+ Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem
+ Aba Cuostos, Ethiopian Archbishop of Jerusalem
+ Paul Sayyah, Maronite Archbishop in the Holy Land
+ Riah Abu El Assal, Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem
+ Munib Younan, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Jerusalem
Archim. Mtanios Haddad, Greek Melkite Catholic Patr. Vicar in Jerusalem
Msgr George Makhzoum, Armenian Catholic Patri. Vicar in Jerusalem
Fr. Elias Tabban, for the Syrian Catholic Patr. Vicariate in Jerusalem