JORDAN – On Tuesday, December 19, 2018, His Majesty King Abdullah II accompanied by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, attended a celebration at Al Hussein Cultural Centre in Amman, held by the churches in Jordan on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year titled “Jordan; Land of fellowship, Land of Faith”.
The ceremony was attended by a number of Head of Churches and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which, His Excellency Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem addressed the following speech:
Your Majesty, King Abdullah II,
As we are approaching Christmas and the beginning of a new year, with all the joy this brings to our souls, allow me to start by thanking the Lord for all his blessings and to continue praying for the nation’s prosperity and well-being.
The Gospel says that the angels of the Lord stood before some shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them bringing them the good news, a great joy that will be for all the people: the birth of a Savior (Lk 2:10). And the shepherds said to each other: “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Lk 2:15). Like the shepherds, we too want to go again to Bethlehem to see, as every year, the miracle, the promise that was fulfilled when the Lord became one of us.
We go to Bethlehem to present our hopes and our fears to the Word of God, to implore his mercy, to have the joyful spirit of this season in our hearts and souls. Despite all the hard times the region and the world are enduring, we are determined not to renounce the joy of these days. We do not want to turn off the lights of the Christmas trees and the music of our festivals that adorn our streets. On contrary, we want to express like the shepherds our joy.
In Jordan, we all get to enjoy several blessings: the beauty of religious coexistence and fruitful dialogues that bring all the communities even closer to each other. The blessings of living the spirit of the Amman message, that of religious moderation, inclusion, and respect. The blessings that we, in Jordan, under the patronage of Your Majesty, are one family and that this Country, even if small in size, is a cornerstone to the stability of the region.
But we also want to be vigilant and attentive, because there are also reasons for apprehension for us and for our Churches. In fact, this year as well, we have had to struggle with many problems and raise many concerns that are endangering the stability of our communities, particularly in Jerusalem.
These Christian communities may be small in numbers, but very vibrant and dedicated, in serving the Community through their schools, hospitals, and many other similar institutions. This is the Christian way of contributing and being partners, side by side, with their fellow citizens, to serve the nation and preserve the identity and the universal value of Jerusalem as a Holy City for the three Abrahamic religions, as the Pope Francis stressed on many occasions.
Unfortunately, in the last few months, we have had to raise our voices several times to guarantee the right freedom and respect for our institutions, even with extreme initiatives, such as the closing of the Holy Sepulcher. Indeed, the Churches have more than once been at the center of local political struggles and exposed to the threat of unilateral taxation initiatives that have put the survival of their respective social and charitable activities at great risk.
On another hand, the political instability of the region, especially in Syria and Iraq, the constantly changing regional and international political equilibrium, accompanied by a serious economic recession, confuse our people in Jordan and increase their fears. At times, tensions within our respective religious communities caused even by a simple depiction and amplified by social media, could easily arise, as it happened. And it is therefore even more necessary that we all work together – as we did – to keep the social and religious balance of our society always stable and strong.
On this occasion, we turn to you and to the Hashemite family, which has always been not only the guardian of the Holy Places but also the guarantor of social and religious peace in Jordan and Palestine.
Once again, we are here to support Your efforts to ensure that the voices of your people, Christians, and Muslims, are heard in all institutional, regional and international forums, so that the delicate balance of the Holy City is preserved, the voices of the poor of the Holy Land find acceptance and for justice and truth to be supported.
In this occasion, I want to congratulate Your Majesty on the Templeton Prize you received recently, as a sign of appreciation for what you do in promoting dialogue and respect in your country and in the international community. As a religious Pastor, I also commend your decision to give a general amnesty for several prisoners, as a sign of reconciliation in the nation. This is the occasion also to thank the Royal House for the continuous support in giving to the various and everyday needs of the Churches, through the offices of Prince Ghazi.
May the Lord bless all of us and our efforts in building a better society, and the Lord who decided to dwell in Bethlehem, continue to dwell in our communities, in our houses, and in our hearts as well.
Amman, 18 December 2018
+ Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem
Photos: Noursat and Abouna