stemma logo

Patriarch Emeritus

Pastoral Letters






Solemnity of the Assumption 15
15 August 2006 Nazareth

The Eucharistic Celebration for Peace
in the Basilica of the Annunciation

Your Excellency, Archbishop Antonio Franco, Nuncio in Israel and Apostolic Delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine, present today among us in the name of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to express to us his solicitude, his prayer and communion with us and with our sufferings and those of the entire region.
We have heard his voice in these days, and more than once since the beginning of the war he has appealed for a ceasefire, to abandon the ways of war, to return upon the ways of peace.
A sincere, persistent, strong, clear, unequivocal voice in the recognition of the rights of all: “The right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their Nation, the right of the Israelis to live in peace in their State, the right of the Palestinians to have a free Country and sovereign” (Benedict XVI).
We thank you for your presence here in the midst of us. Our Church, Bishops, priests, Religious and all the faithful, thank you and ask you to bring our gratitude to the Holy Father for his presence today among us, for his words and for his paternal solicitude.
God's grace accompanies us
My Brother Bishops, Priests, Religious, Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, elevated in the glory of eternity. This feast is the coronation of the Annunciation, which marked the beginning of the life of Mary here, in this city of Nazareth.
The Angel said to her: “Rejoice, O highly favoured daughter! The Lord is with you.... You have found favour with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus.... The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God”.
In the Annunciation we meditate upon the beginning of the life of Mary on earth. Today, we meditate upon her glory in the heavens after having accomplished her mission on earth.
God has accompanied the Virgin Mary with his grace; he also accompanies us with his grace and his mercy. This is why all the events of our life, in time of peace and in time of war, are concerned with men, with the evil and the good they cause us, but also with God, with his grace and love for us all.
Today, we lift our gaze towards the Holy Virgin in Heaven and ask her to cast a glance at our “valley of tears”. Gazing towards eternity, we meditate on the trials of the war that we live with, all the peoples of our Land and region.
Before the sufferings of the Palestinians, of the Lebanese and of the Israelis, before the Israeli reservist soldiers, the Hamas troops at Gaza and those of Hezbollah of South Lebanon, and before all the trials of all the refugees everywhere, before every form of destruction that we have seen in these days, and in the first place the demolition of the human person, of his life and his dignity, before all of this, we express our condemnation and we say that the demolition and the death in South Lebanon — while thanking God today because the war has begun to cease, though it continues in Gaza — are a crime against man and against his Creator.
We say that the hesitation shown, year after year, to establish justice and peace in this holy land and the persistence of the instability in the region are the great sin of those responsible for our countries. War cannot be the way to build peace and security.
Gathered here to pray in the presence of God, in all and in each one, Palestinians, Lebanese and Israelis, and Israeli reservist soldiers, the Hamas troops at Gaza in South Lebanon, we see human persons that God has honoured with his image and with an inviolable dignity.
All are called by God to life and not to death, to peace and not to war, to love and not to hate. This is our Christian position for each human person. And we hold that the initial dignity of each human person that God has granted to all in an equal way remains the base necessary for every effort for peace and reconstruction.
When defence becomes hostility
In these days the war has struck us in a direct way in our families, our homes and our convents. Some have been killed, others wounded, still others have become refugees. Concerning this, we say that we are an integral part of our Land and our society, and it is normal that we share the sacrifices of all.
In the face of the death and destruction here in Israel, we Arabs of Israel say: Israelis, we want security for you and tranquillity; we love you with the love with which God loves you, just as we love the whole Arab world so full of hostility, anger and hate, which only increases against you.
We love you but we tell you that the destruction and the death caused in Gaza and Lebanon are not the way of peace.
You make war, you say, and the world says with you, that you have the right to defend yourself. Instead of defending yourself, however, you expose yourself to greater hostility and insecurity.
Your true victory is this: to put an end to the occupation that you impose on the Palestinian People. Thus, you will know, and the whole region will know, stability and security.
You need an ever growing number of friends who can remind you of this, saying with the Psalmist: “seek peace, and pursue it” (Ps 34[33]:14), and affirming that the ways followed until today were not the ways that lead to peace, and that now it is necessary to take up new ways to reach peace and security for yourselves and the whole region.
A frightful reality
Brothers and sisters, this is our reality: war, death, destruction and hate.
Listening to the Appeal of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, represented in our midst by Archbishop Antonio Franco, we have come here today to pray. He has invited us to pray for our peace and for the peace of each human person in this Land.
We came to pray and we have heard in the words of the Gospel the hymn of the Virgin Mary: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. In this song she tells us, and we repeat it and we pray so that it also applies to our reality: the Almighty “has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts. He has deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places. The hungry he has given every good thing, while the rich he has sent empty away” (cf. Lk 1:46-56).
We pray that each form of oppression imposed by men on our land and in every region of the world may end, that we may all listen to and live the song of the angels in the heavens at Bethlehem: “Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom his favour rests”.
We ask God that this great calamity can transform itself in decisive steps towards total, definitive and just peace. And we, brothers and sisters, in the face of every trial, we remain strong, we collaborate together, we fill our minds and our hearts with the love and the strength of God, and we continue our efforts to build peace and justice with all those building in this holy land.
We ask the Holy Virgin, on this feast day, to grant peace to us, to all the inhabitants of this Land and to the whole region. Let us pray together and say: Queen of peace, grant peace to our Land. Amen.


                                                                           + Michel Sabbah, Patriarche

Home Page