Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Christmas message 2001
Brothers and Sisters,
To you all I wish a Blessed Christmas and a happy new year, full of peace and joy. We welcome Christmas once again after having lived one year of death, demolition and fear. Despair began to fill the hearts of some who took the decision to leave us and to emigrate. Others remained with us to lead the struggle of daily life and to carry their mission and their message of hope, peace and justice in this land.
We welcome the feast with its deep and live bringing mystery: "A Savior has been born to us who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2, 11). We adore God's mystery that appeared to us, the day of the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Word, as affirmed by Saint Paul: “God's grace has been revealed and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race" (Titus 2,11). And it is in the mediation of this mystery that we recover our security, roots of our liberty and our peace. In spite of bullets of death which arrived until the basilica and the square of the nativity, symbol of peace for humanity, we shall listen to the voice of the angels and their song in the sky of Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour" (Luke 2, 14). Yes, the peace on earth is bound to the glory that we give back to God and to the love, which makes us similar to his image and likeness, we who suffered and who have been toughly tormented during this year.
God is near, even though he appears far away. He is the master of history. He sees what his servants do and He exercises patience. But we also know that every good and every evil will have its retribution in this life, either in the life of persons or in that of peoples. The continuous injustice in this Holy Land, the occupation of the land, the humiliation of the people, their massacre, the siege that is imposed on them, their deprivation of the liberty that God gave them, all this will have an end one day. We will see then in this land, God's face, the peace, and the liberty of all its children, Palestinians and Israelis.
Brothers and Sisters, we invite you to celebrate Christmas and to penetrate its deep significance, because we need today more than ever all spiritual strength in us in order to renew our courage. Our message to all Christians on this feast, source of joy and peace for the world, and to all Palestinians, is a message of patience, hope and courage to survive all probations. Our message is also the next one: the branch of olive is the most efficient weapon in the hand of the Palestinian, in his resistance to recover his Land and his liberty.
Our message to the Jewish people is also a message of hope, but an invitation also to rectify the measures taken by their governors: the people must start making the peace that governors didn't manage to achieve until now. The goodness of God and his grace can be more present in the soul of the people more than in the plans of politicians or militaries. Peoples must be capable to meet, not as fighters or carriers of death one to another, but in the deepest of their humanity, as human beings created to construct this Holy Land, without necessarily passing by fear, death and vengeance. Because peace with justice is not impossible. Peace in the good neighborhood is possible. Peace that puts end to the occupation, which puts an end to the military action since 1967, this is also possible. Peace that puts end to the occupation, that frees soldiers, sends them back into society and to their families and gives them back the capacity to love and to construct, instead of to maintaining them under orders that oblige them to stain their hands with the blood of others. This is also possible and necessary. All violence that doesn't stop threatening the security of the daily life will stop, when the occupation ends, and justice will be made to all, both Israelis and Palestinians, all enjoy the same liberty and the same security.
Therefore, we need today in the Holy Land, not leaders who teach us to make war, who ask their peoples to accept sacrifices, including their lives, but leaders who have visions of justice and have the courage to realize peace, even if they have to pay a high price from their own lives, i.e the martyrdom. We need leaders "of the race of those who seek God and who pursue His face" (Ps 23, 6).
The peace is near as God is near to each of us. Brothers and Sisters, beside all our human efforts, beyond all possible human fights, let's put our confidence in God, as said by Saint Paul: "The Lord is very near… in all needs pray… then God's peace, that surpasses all intelligence, will guard your hearts and your thoughts " (Philip 4, 5-7).
Merry and Holy Christmas, Christmas of hope, joy, justice and peace.
+ Michel Sabbah
Patriarch Latin of Jerusalem