The Christmas Message of Peace event, which included a simulcast between the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and Bethlehem, was delivered with passion, giving better understanding of the situation for Christians in the Holy Land, who along with others, endure the hardships of living under occupation. The program, which was supported by the Archdiocese of Washington and sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center (JP2CC), delivered a renewed commitment of solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Holy Land. It was a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus which took place in this holy city so many years ago.
Press Release – HCEF
The live simulcast began with the Children of the School of Incarnation (Washington, D C) singing “Away in a Manger.” Approximately 300 people attended the simulcast in Washington, DC. Raymond Arroyo, News Director for Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) served as the Master of Ceremony. Rateb Rabie, KCHS, President and CEO of HCEF commented that “It is our desire and intent to reach everyone with this message of peace and, in an effort to achieve this, the Christmas Message of Peace will be an annual event. There should be peace in the city of peace, the Birthplace of Jesus.”
Dr. Hugh Dempsey, Deputy Director of JP2CC also gave welcoming remarks and commented that “HCEF really touched the people’s hearts when they connected choirs in the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and Saint Catherine’s church in Bethlehem. The youngsters gathered in the Rotunda of JPII sang loudly so their voices would be added to the chorus of those working and praying for peace in the Holy Land.”
In Bethlehem, approximately 120 persons attended the simulcast including the Mayor of Bethlehem, Mayor of Beit Jala, representatives from the Palestinian Legislative Council, Representatives from Religious and non-religious institutions, local community and close to 30 children.
The aim of the simulcast was to emphasize the importance of conveying the message of peace to the audience and the world. HCEF VP and Country Representative Mr. George Ghattas, was the Master of Ceremonies in Bethlehem. Father Samuel Adel Massyh, St. Catherine Parish Priest introduced His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Each confirmed the message of peace through their speeches. His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal said, ““Help us, pray for us, pray with us to achieve peace.” His message emphasized on the importance of seeking peace in Palestine and the world.
Scripture readings were done by Mr. Ronald White, Supreme Director, Knights of Columbus (Washington, DC) and by Mr. Khlil Hanania, HCEF Head Engineer (Bethlehem)
Father Samuel welcomed His Beatitude, Auxiliary Bishop-elect Barry Knestout, and the audience in Bethlehem and D.C. Washington and said: as we are getting close to Christmas, Christians of the Holy Land are celebrating this occasion with you (D.C. Washington) and the Christians all over the world. At the time we are renewing the message of peace and love, and despite the isolation Bethlehem is experiencing from the Separation Wall, we ensure that our message extends beyond any borders and can convey the messages between Bethlehem and D.C. Washington to achieve peace.
Visitors were able to tour the center and see the display of various crèches from around the world. A traditional Palestinian Nativity scene was constructed under the supervision of Elias and May Shomali. Although many who attended the event have previously been exposed to the real living conditions and difficulties of life under occupation behind the “Separation Wall,” this event was, for those with no familiarity, instrumental in heightening the awareness about this issue.
A prayer labyrinth was on site for walking and praying for peace, a choir from Refuge Church (Olney, MD) rendered a few Christmas selections and Holy Land gift items were on display for sale. The Christmas Message of Peace was an inspiring and warm event to remind the world to continue to seek peace and pursue it.
Many, many thanks to all who worked diligently to support this event! We would like to recognize the diligent efforts of Brother Joseph Britt, C.F.X. Confirmation Program Administrator, JP2 CC, Bill Gorman, Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns, Archdiocese of Washington, John Sanders, Facility Program Coordinator, Carlos Molina, IT Director, JP2CC, Caro Alcuaz, Programs Assistant/Researcher, JP2CC, Luis Peralta, Exhibits Associate/Visitor Services Manager, JP2CC, Amani Juha, HCEF Administrative Officer, Salim Al ama, HCEF Holy Land Programs Director, and Patty Mazar, Senior Administrator, Office of Regulatory Affairs- Georgetown University Medical Center and HCEF’s Catholic Outreach Coordinator.
Photos courtesy of Mark Hoyt, The Catholic Standard