Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem’s Christmas Homily

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The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, celebrated Christmas Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, at the Basilica of the Nativity.

In his homily, Patriarch Twal recalled the many crises and conflicts around the world. But, he said, “We must never give in to despair, because Jesus, our Saviour has told us that peace is possible, that the flame of hope remains alive, that justice and reconciliation will come.”

Full Text

Here’s the complete text of Patriarch Fouad Twal’s homily at Midnight Mass in Bethlehem:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)

President Mahmoud Abbas,
Prime Minister, Rami Al Hamadallah,
Honorable Nasser Judeh, Jordan’s Foreign Minister,
Honorable Ambassadors and Consuls,
My Brothers in the Episcopate and representatives of Churches

Dear Pilgrims and Faithful,

From the Grotto of Bethlehem, I express my best wishes for peace and joy!

Mr. President, thank you for coming tonight to celebrate Christmas with us. We pray for you and for your mission in finding a just and equitable solution to the present conflict, for Palestinian unity, for the peace and prosperity of your country. We ask God to grant you wisdom and courage. We also pray for all government leaders of the Middle East, especially for His Majesty King Abdullah Il Ben Al-Hussein of Jordan and guardian of the Holy Places in Palestine.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christmas eve was a deep crisis for the Holy Family, “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). That historic night reminds us of the long night into which our world and the Middle East are plunged.

The world is living through a long night of wars, destruction, fear, hate, racism and, at the present time, cold and snow. From this Holy Place, we remember all the adversities in our world: from civil wars in Africa to the typhoon in the Philippines, the difficult situation in Egypt and in Iraq, the tragedy playing out in Syria and not to forget our own problems here: the prisoners and their families who hope for their release, the poor who have lost their land and their homes demolished, families waiting to be reunited, those out of work and all who suffer from the economic crisis.

Oh Child of Bethlehem, we are weary! In the face of this painful reality, we pray in the words of the Advent hymn: “Vide Domine afflictiónem populi tui… See, Lord, the affliction of your people. Send, Lord, Him that you must send, send the Lamb (…) that he may Himself deliver us from the yoke of our captivity.”

But we must never give in to despair, because Jesus, our Saviour has told us that peace is possible, that the flame of hope remains alive, that justice and reconciliation will come. It is from Bethlehem that the message of Salvation came; and we turn our gaze towards Bethlehem. For on this night is renewed the divine promise, sung by the angels: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)

We are invited to be optimistic and to renew our faith that this Land, home of the three monotheistic religions, will one day become a haven of peace for all people.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)

The peace of Christ is universal and founded in justice. It leads us to recognise each person as a creature of God. It is a peace that is life-giving. No one has the right to kill in the name of God. “For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you! From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal.” (Pope Francis, Message for the 47th day of the World Day for Peace, 7)

In the Holy Land, we are living a conflict that does not seem to have a solution in the short term and which weighs heavily on the inhabitants of the Holy Land.

This painful reality raises numerous questions concerning our future in this country and causes us much worry. We need the answer of faith. The answer lies neither in emigration nor in closing in on ourselves. It consists in staying here and in living and dying here. Our Land is holy and deserves our attachment to it, for our presence in this land is a divine vocation, a blessing and a privilege. The flame of faith burns strongly here, like the star of the Magi, to guide us. We need the comfort that comes from our absolute faith in the Providence of God: “who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.” (2 Cor 1:4)

The light of the faith can illuminate every aspect of our life, our present and our future. Faith intensifies our vision, more deeply, more sublimely and more widely than the human eye can capture. We see modestly, in a sense, as God Himself sees! Consequently, faith is a kind of wisdom that enables us to make the right decisions at the right time. “Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.” (Lumen Fidei,3).

That God is all-powerful, all-knowing, faithful he loves us, strengthens our faith. That is why, nothing should frighten us, neither the present, nor the future, nor the troubles that affect our Middle East.

Oh Holy Child, who experienced the flight into Egypt after the threat from Herod, who two thousand years ago killed the children of Bethlehem, have mercy on our children, and all the world’s children. Have mercy on prisoners, on the poor, the marginalized, and the most vulnerable among us. On this night, we pray for the bishops and religious abducted in Syria. We pray for their return and their dignity may be restored. Remember them, Lord, together with all the refugees. Give them a sign of hope for a better future, that they may return to their country and their homes.

Oh Holy Child, God of goodness and mercy, look with kindness on the Holy Land and on our people who live in Palestine, in Israel, in Jordan and all in the Middle East. Grant them the gift of reconciliation so that they may all be brothers – sons of one God.

Oh Holy Child, we beg for peace through the intercession of your Mother the Holy Virgin Mary, daughter of our Land.

Merry Christmas and may the blessing of the Infant of Bethlehem be upon you.

+ Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem