The Embassy of Palestine held a special celebration at the Vatican Museums on Friday, December 6, under the patronage of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin titled, “The Treasures of the Nativity”, marking the restoration of the Church of the Nativity.
The ceremony was attended by Dr. Ramzi Khoury, president of the Higher Presidential Committee of Churches Affairs and director general of the Palestinian National Fund; Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs of Dr. Riyadh Al-Malki; Chairman of the Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Church of the Nativity Ziad Al-Bandak; as well as a number of bishops and priests, ambassadors, and a number of guests.
Ambassador of Palestine to the Holy See Issa Kassisieh, talked on the religious and heritage importance of the restoration of the Church of the Nativity, and the role played by President Abbas in the care and the follow-up of this spiritual and human heritage. Stressing the deep relations between Palestine and the Holy See, he referred to the continued support of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Holy Land, especially his invaluable gesture of offering the relic of the Holy Crib of the Child Lord Jesus so as to be permanently present in the Holy Land.
Dr. Khoury conveyed the greetings of President Abbas to His Holiness Pope Francis and referred to the joy that accompanies Christmas celebrations. He also praised the role played by Cardinal Parolin with regards to concluding the agreement signed by Palestine and the Holy See in June 2015. Furthermore, he extended an invitation to him to visit Bethlehem so as to participate in the celebrations marking the completion of the restoration work at the Church of the Nativity.
For his part, Cardinal Parolin spoke about the message of the nativity, as well as the need to establish peace in the world, and in the Holy Land in particular. He indicated that the restoration of the Church of the Nativity reflects the splendor of the birthplace of Lord Jesus Christ, and expressed appreciation for the restoration of church. Cardinal Parolin added that the restoration of the Church of the Nativity is a sign of the success of the cooperation between the churches and the civil authorities.
In his main intervention during the celebration, Dr. Malki expressed pride in signing the agreement between Palestine and the Holy See, and the careful follow-up in its implementation in a spirit of friendship and mutual respect. He also touched on the olive tree, which was planted in the Vatican Gardens during the invitation extended by Pope Francis to President Mahmoud Abbas and President Shimon Peres, and hoped that a comprehensive and just peace would be attained for the Palestinian people on the soil of their independent state.
Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, advisor at the Custody of the Holy Land, spoke about the events that took place in Bethlehem since 2002 and quoted His Holiness Pope Francis on the need to build bridges rather than walls. He also underlined the importance of the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the need to maintain Christian presence in the Holy Land.
By: Munir Bayouk