BETHLEHEM – For centuries, Patriarchs of the Latin Church in Jerusalem have journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in honor of Christ’s birth, mirroring the path of the first journey made by Joseph and Mary over two thousand years ago. On Christmas Eve 2015, the current Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, continued this historical tradition and led the annual procession.
It was a jubilant occasion as the streets filled with thousands of people – local Palestinians and foreigners alike – beneath bright Christmas lights and decorations. Sounds of trumpets and drums filled the air as scout troops from all over Palestine marched along, making way for the Patriarchal procession. The path from Jerusalem winds down Star Street, through Manger Square, until it finally arrives to the Church of Nativity. Collectively, these locations were recognized in 2012 as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
At midnight, the Patriarch celebrated the Christmas Midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah were among those in attendance honoring the birth of Christ as well as the rich cultural tradition of Palestinian Christians.
During his homily, Patriarch Twal reflected on the promises of Christ while somberly acknowledging the ongoing plight of Palestinians: “We live in a land of conflict, and it seems to have no end. To arrive here for this mass I had to cross checkpoints, a concrete wall, and soldiers with their rifles. I had to submit to the realities of occupation. I hope this separation between us will end, both physically and spiritually. Peace does not come from separation – it comes from justice, mutual respect and dignity. This is why worship Christ, for His salvation brings peace, first within ourselves, then with others.”
The Mass was completed when the Patriarch proceeded to the Grotto of the Nativity, holding a symbolic representation of the infant Christ. This symbol of the infant Jesus was set upon the Silver Star in the Grotto that marks His original birthplace, where prophecy and the hope for salvation was fulfilled for all.
Of the mass, Sir Rateb Rabie, HCEF President/CEO said, “It always moves me to see the Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, renewing my hope in God’s greatest gift, our Lord Jesus Christ. Although Palestinian Christians suffer, they remain true to their faith, shining a light in darkness. I am proud to consider myself one of them, and I am humbled by our supporters from all over the world. They too remind me of God’s grace in this life. ”
From the HCEF family to yours, we thank you for tuning in to the Christmas celebration in Bethlehem and giving your generous support to Palestinian Christians in need.
If you haven’t donated yet, there’s still time to make your end of the year, tax-deductible donation! Please DONATE HERE to give Palestinian Christians the gift of hope this Christmas.
Merry Christmas and God Bless!
And for a complete gallery the Christmas celebration in Bethlehem, click HERE!