Pizzaballa in Bethlehem: May Christ be born anew in this land!

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At the Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem speaks about the horrors of the war ravaging the Holy Land, affecting both Palestinians and Israelis. But his gaze fixes especially on the tragedy afflicting the inhabitants of Gaza and the Palestinians, who seem to have no place in their own land.

Christmas in Bethlehem this year is lived in sorrow, without pilgrims, without lights, without decorations, without the traditional Christmas tree in Manger Square, replaced by a nativity scene made of rubble that recalls the war that is claiming thousands of victims.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, celebrated the traditional Christmas Midnight Mass in the Church of St Catherine at the Basilica of the Nativity. The little chapel in the Grotto below the Basilica – marking the place where Jesus was born – is too small, and there is no room for so many of the faithful, mostly Palestinian Christians.

The Patriarch, began his homily reflecting on this point: just as there was no place in Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph, today there seems to be no place for Christmas, for joy and for peace, because the pain here has affected everyone, both Palestinians and Israelis.

“My thoughts go to Gaza and its two million inhabitants,” he said. “Truly the words ‘there was no room for them’ describe their situation, which is now known to all. Their suffering ceaselessly cries out to the whole world. No place or home is safe for anyone.”

Cardinal Pizzaballa recalled, too, the plight of the Palestinian people. “Though living on their own land, they continually hear ‘there is no place for them’. For decades they have been waiting for the international community to find solutions to end the occupation under which they are forced to live and its consequences.”

The Patriarch prayed, “May Christ be born anew in this land, His and ours, and may the way of the Gospel of peace for the whole world begin again from here! May He be reborn in the hearts of those who believe in Him, moving them to witness and mission, without the fear of night and death! May He also be reborn as a desire for peace and goodness, truth and justice, in the hearts of those who do not yet believe!”

Joining the Patriarch at the Christmas Mass during the Night was Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, sent by the Pope to show his closeness to the people of the Holy Land at this difficult time. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who customarily attends the Midnight Mass, was not present this year.

The full text of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa’s homily for Christmas Midnight Mass can be found on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.