Washington, D.C. – St. Gabriel Catholic Church received soil from the grotto of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth on the feast day of their patron, Saint Gabriel. Sir Rateb Rabie, President and CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), and his wife, Lady Rocio Rabie, Public Relations Officer of HCEF, presented this special gift on behalf of the Arab Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land.
The urn, containing the earth, was presented to His Excellency Bishop Martin D. Holley, Reverend Father Avelino Gonzalez, and to the parishioners of St. Gabriel Catholic Church.
During the presentation, Sir Rateb commented that the soil acts as a reminder that their Arab Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land are preserving Christian roots and heritage, remaining steadfast in the land where Christ was born, despite daily struggles.
The soil also symbolizes the undying bonds of fraternity between St. Gabriel Church and the Mother Church in the Holy Land. Sir Rateb continued by inviting the parish to visit their home as Christians in the Holy Land and asked them to pray for the Palestinian Christians, as well as HCEF, so they may continue to do the Lord’s work. Finally, he emphasized that the soil was a gift directly from Arab Palestinian Christians whose ancestors were the first Christian community and first followers of Christ.
In all, the celebration was a moving occasion, especially considering that St. Gabriel was the first to bring the good news of Jesus Christ’s coming to the Virgin Mary. Father Avelino commended HCEF for building a strong partnership and fellowship between the Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land and the Christians in the United States and for bringing a piece of the Holy Land to the church.