“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

A Christmas Wish For Peace: H.B. Card. Pierbattista Visit To Gaza Has Been Cancelled

Every year, with the approach of the 4th Sunday of Advent, H.B. Card. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, accompanied by a delegation would usually start to prepare themselves to head from the Latin Patriarchate to Gaza, to spend quality time with the parish of Gaza, visit various Christian institutions, meet with the people of Gaza, and most importantly to hold Christmas Mass for the Christian community there as they are unable to celebrate with their brothers and sisters on the 24th of December in Bethlehem, the Birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

The protracted bitter war has disrupted this traditional pastoral visit from taking place this Christmas of 2023. And all the Christians of the Holy Land have refrained from holding any celebrations, as a sign of solidarity and compassion with the people of Gaza. Rather, this year’s Christmas celebrations were restrained to times of prayer, abstinence, and intercession in hopes that justice and peace would come with the coming of Christmas.

The Christian community in Gaza, which is significantly small yet has a big calling, lives together as one big family, displaying strong brotherly relations with each other and the community around them, facing all their challenges and pains in a spirit of faith, hope, and steadfastness. Pastored by Fr. Gabriel Romanali for the past 5 years and through the assistance provided by the Latin Patriarchate, and all the Christian facilities and institutions found in Gaza, which provide support and care for all without discrimination, the Christian community remains there. Cardinal Pierbattista has shared with us, upon following up with the state of our parishioners in Gaza, that this war has caused their faith to be fortified rather than shaken, they remained in prayer and placed their trust in God’s protection and refused to escape from their homeland. Hence, we can ascribe to them: “The salt of the earth and light of the world” – (Mt 5:13).

Usually, H.B. makes two pastoral visits to Gaza in a year, to pastor his flock as he said in his last visit in 2022… “I’m a pastor, and they’re my flock”. During his stay, he spends his time visiting many of the parishioners’ homes to get to know their families, listen to their needs, pray together, and bless their houses. On his last Christmas visit, he dedicated two afternoons and one morning to just visiting Christian families. Many memories have been made during these pastoral visits as he has been visiting the Gaza Strip since 2019, and the years before that by former Patriarchs. Cardinal Pierbattista has administered the Sacrament of First Communion, Confirmation, and Baptism to a large number of the children’s parishioners. They await his visit to hold these celebrations. Last Christmas, H.B. Card. Pierbattista gave the sacrament of confirmation to 10 boys and girls of the parish and baptized a baby. He also got to watch and enjoy the Christmas play prepared by the Children of the parish. There is always a special time devoted to the youth and the scouts, but especially during his visit in 2021, Card. Pizzaballa inaugurated a soccer and basketball field, met with the scouts of the parish, and organized a day of activities in the parish yard for the youth. A field trip to the two Patriarchate schools, as well as the Rosary sisters school, is always a must during his stay. Not to mention, the visits to the two centers for the Missionary Sisters of Charity, which takes care of severely disabled children, teenagers, and the elderly. In 2022, the Latin Patriarchate helped expand the center and provided an elevator to help facilitate movement. They also check different projects funded by many Christian institutes in Gaza to meet the beneficiaries and get to know how the projects are making an impact in their lives.

From Eucharistic adorations, Masses, field visits, and to hours spent in dialogue and communion as a community…The Latin Patriarchate’s visit to Gaza during Christmas comes with high importance. It assures them that they are indeed not alone; it is something that the parish waits and prepares for all year long; and most importantly it connects them with the Body of Christ outside of Gaza.

Pain and suffering are inevitable in this life, but Hope remains… for our God is the God of hope (Romans 15:13), he is the God of the impossible (Mt 19:26), so let us unite in prayer and faith, and welcome the Nativity of Christ in a spirit of humility, remembering that he is Emmanual, God with us, and calls us to be the light of the world as “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” –John 1:5.

By:lpj.org

2023-12-21T08:53:57+00:00 December 21st, 2023|Categories: News|