Washington Auxiliary Bishop-elect Barry Knestout and Patriarch Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, led a joint Christmas message for peace in the Holy Land on Dec. 13. The simulcast was from Washington and Bethlehem to the world and will be broadcast by the religious television network EWTN at a later date.
Meredith Black, Catholic Standard staff

The simulcast was part of a day long, multi-event program at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington hosted by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation in Washington and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

In his welcoming remarks, Raymond Arroyo, the EWTN news director who served as the master of ceremonies for the event, said the purpose of the simulcast was to connect Christian communities in the Holy Land with Christian communities in the United States in order to "come together to pray for peace." Participants in Washington had gathered at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center for the simulcast and participants in the Holy Land gathered at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Sir Rateb Rabie, the president/CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, said he hoped the simulcast will become an annual event. Referring to the people in the Holy Land, he said, "They are our brothers and sisters in Christ."

The deputy director of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, Hugh Dempsey, noted that Pope John Paul II had said that "peace is through the eyes of children." For the simulcast, children from the School of the Incarnation Concert Choir sang Christmas songs. The School of the Incarnation in Gambrills, Md., is part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

More than 2,000 years ago "in a modest manger was born the prince of peace," Bishop-elect Knestout said. With the birth of Jesus, Bethlehem "became a city of peace," the bishop said.

During his remarks, Jerusalem Patriarch Twal said peace, justice and freedom are fundamental needs for all humanity. "Please pray for us and do not leave us alone in our very delicate mission," he said.

Rick Koehler's daughter, Kelly, is in the fourth grade and sang with the School of the Incarnation choir. Koehler said his daughter understands a lot of turmoil around the world exists. About the simulcast, he said, "Hopefully, this will spread the word of peace."

Also on exhibit at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center are a multicultural collection of nativity displays from around the world including one central nativity crafted by an Arab Christian artist from Bethlehem. In an interview after the simulcast, Dempsey said when Pope Benedict visited the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center this past April, he asked people to "continue the work for peace in the Holy Land." The day long program on Dec. 13 was an extension of what the Holy Father wanted, Dempsey said.