Marking the Feast of St. Joseph and the 90th birth anniversary of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Emeritus Michele Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa celebrated Holy Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Holy Land, as prayers of thanks were lifted up in appreciation of Patriarch Sabah’s legacy which is dedicated to the Church of the Holy Land on Saturday, March 18, 2023.
In attendance were Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Nazareth Bishop Rafic Nahra, Maronite Patriarchal Vicar for the Holy Land Bishop Moussa Al-Hajj, Bishop Giancinto-Paul Marcuzzo, Deputy Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, a number of priests, nuns, representatives of the civil authorities, relatives of Bishop Sabah, and a number of believers.
In his homily, Patriarch Pizzaballa touched on three qualities of Patriarch Sabah that he enjoyed during his tenure as patriarch of the Holy City, Jerusalem, on November 11, 1987-June 21, 2008, namely preserving the priestly identity, the shepherd, and the loving shepherd of his people.
He said: Patriarch Sabah preserved his priestly identity even when he became a bishop and a patriarch. As a young man, he decided to dedicate his life to Lord Jesus Christ despite the political difficulties that surrounded this decision, so he had to leave his birthplace, Nazareth, and live in the patriarchal seminary in Beit Jala. Throughout his life, he maintained his priestly identity, which means praying, maintaining the sacraments, and serving people while being in constant contact with the Living Word of the Lord.
Patriarch Pizzaballa also indicated that Patriarch Sabah became a patriarch at an important and pivotal period in the history of the Latin Patriarchate and the local Church in the Holy Land. He was the first Arab Palestinian patriarch in the Holy Land as he took upon himself the responsibility to prepare the Church for the advent of the new centenary, namely Jubilee 20000 by paying attention to several pastoral affairs such as schools and the new parishes especially in Jordan. As for the main thing he undertook, it was the organization of the Diocesan Synod (1995-2000) which was a turning point in the history of the local church and the relationships among churches.
He pointed out that Patriarch Sabah loved his people, and became a voice for the people. During the years of the first and the second intifadas, apart from the prevailing turbulent political and social difficulties, Patriarch Sabah was a voice not only for Christian Palestinians, but for all the Palestinian people. This was not an easy matter, as it requires great courage to be in contact with the people in order to remain faithful to the voice of the people. Patriarch Pizzaballa recalled the sermons delivered on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. Before Patriarch Sabah, there were no sermons, and with him the sermons became a focal point that attracts the whole world in to be familiar with the conditions of the Holy Land.
Patriarch Pizzaballa concluded his homily by addressing Patriarch Sabah. He said, “We can say that you were a good shepherd for this people, even though the political problems were not resolved, and this is of course not the duty of the Church, as the Church had a voice that expresses the truth as well as spreads hope and unity in the hearts. Thank you, Patriarch Sabah, for your leadership and care of the Church of Jerusalem, and you will remain a reference for the Church and for people in the Holy Land. In the name of the Latin Patriarchate and the Catholic Churches, we offer you our prayers. Even if your eyesight is no longer sharp, or your movement is frail, your insight remains guiding and directing the entire Church of Jerusalem.”
For his part, Patriarch Sabbah thanked all the participants in this Holy Mass, including His Beatitude Patriarch Pizzaballa, bishops, priests, and nuns, and the faithful for their presence and prayers.
He said: “My prayers and views to you are: Be Christians. What does it mean? It means to know Lord Jesus Christ, to read and meditate on His Holy Bible.” He added, “Be Christians. I mean, love as Lord Jesus Christ loves. Christian love is the love for all people. It is wishing good for all people, and also preventing evil from inflicting all people, even in some delicate or political circumstances. The Christian’s love is comprehensive, like God’s love for all of His creation. It is the love for every Christian in all their churches, it is the love for the Muslims, the Jews, the Druze, and everyone whom God created. In our various Churches, we Christians need to share more love. Nazareth needs more love in order to keep seditions and evil hovering in the area at bay.”
Concluding his address, “Patriarch Sabah said: “Let us pray that we will be fully Christians, so as to love ourselves and love all people. Let us pray for peace. I ask God to grant us peace through the intercession of St. Joseph, to bless you all, and to instill in you His love. Amen.”
By Munir Bayouk | en.abouna.org