From the wounded heart of the land where Jesus was born comes the Christmas message of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, given to Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano to share.
Plunged into a sea of hatred
Cardinal Pizzaballa’s thoughts begin by considering the outbreak of violence that seems to grip the planet and now what is happening in the Holy Land. “It seems that the whole world is experiencing a time of great difficulty where violence, hatred, division, feelings of revenge prevail,” he says in his video message given in Italian sent to Vatican media.
The Patriarch expresses concern about the situation “in northern Europe” and then focuses on the Middle East: “Since 7 October we have been plunged into a sea of hatred, resentment, revenge, and death.” A hatred that, as he points out, “has affected Israeli society and is affecting Palestinian society now.” He has in his heart above all what is happening in Gaza, but he also remembers “our small Christian community in Bethlehem.”
Saying yes to God for reconciliation
Aware of “situations of great difficulty where each person is locked in his or her own suffering,” Cardinal Pizzaballa emphasizes the unmistakable importance and meaning of Christmas: “God comes to us, makes himself present to us and opens our hearts to encountering the other, to recognizing the other as an important part of oneself.”
This meaning helps us see Christmas in all its disarming and every present value. “Despite all this terrible violence, we must not forget that the message of Christmas remains, perhaps at this moment even more important than ever. God out of love becomes flesh,” he recalls, “and communicates to us a new way of being in the world, which is to give one’s life out of love for others.”
He adds that the din of weapons cannot lessen the fact that “it is Christmas also here in the Holy Land where there are people who say yes to God, yes to their brother and sister. Because saying yes to God,” he emphasizes “means recognizing the other, our brother or sister. And they are willing to be open to dialogue, to say yes to reconciliation, yes to forgiveness, yes to friendship.”
Beyond present suffering and seeing God’s work
On this solemn day the Patriarch addresses first the members of his local flock, but also all those who hear this message and “look to this place, the Holy Land.” The long-suffering but continual invitation is expressed by those who hold steadfast to the certainty that the Lord does not abandon us.
“We need to lift up our gaze,” he concludes, “to go beyond the present pain and see God’s work being done. Because Jesus is truly this child, he is truly the Lord of history, of the personal history of each one of us and of the history of the world.” Despite it all, it is time to proclaim that “we believe Him.” Today is Christmas, Cardinal Pizzaballa proclaims, and he exhorts everyone to announce the same message, while he wishes God’s blessings upon all.