Church leaders in Jerusalem: ‘Christmas still inspires hope amid war’

In their annual Christmas message, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem recall that Christ Himself was born and lived amid great suffering, and urge Christians and all people of goodwill to work tirelessly towards a just peace in the Holy Land.

By Lisa Zengarini

As Christmas approaches, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem have once again called for an immediate end to the “horrors” of war ravaging the Holy Land.

Unimaginable suffering 

In a Christmas message released on 21 December, Church leaders decried the “unimaginable suffering” caused by the conflict, which has brought “misery and inconsolable sorrow to countless families” throughout the region.

“For those caught in the midst of such dire circumstances, hope seems distant and beyond reach. Yet it was into such a world that our Lord himself was born in order to give us hope,” the Church leaders in Jerusalem noted, recalling the situation faced by the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt for sanctuary.

“Here, we must remember that during the first Christmas, the situation was not far removed from that of today,” they said. “Thus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph had difficulty finding a place for their son’s birth. There was the killing of children. There was military occupation. And there was the Holy Family becoming displaced as refugees. Outwardly, there was no reason for celebration other than the birth of the Lord Jesus.”

Christ’s Nativity inspires message of hope and peace 

“This is the divine message of hope and peace that Christ’s Nativity inspires within us, even in the midst of suffering,” they remarked. “For Christ himself was born and lived amid great suffering. Indeed, he suffered for our sake, even unto death upon a cross, in order that the light of hope would shine into the world, overcoming the darkness.”

Likewise, the message invites the faithful in the Holy Land and around the globe “to seek the graces of God so that we might learn to walk with each other on the paths of justice, mercy, and peace.”

Concluding, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem bid Christians and all those of goodwill “to work tirelessly for the relief of the afflicted and towards a just and lasting peace in this land that is equally sacred to the three Monotheistic Faiths.”

King Abdullah of Jordan meets Christian and Muslim leaders on crisis

The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza were the focus of a meeting held on Wednesday by King Abdullah of Jordan with Christian and Muslim religious leaders from Jerusalem and Jordan. 

In his address, the Hashemite King warned of the repercussions of the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, also drawing attention to the heightened tensions in the West Bank and in Jerusalem and reiterating the need to stand united in defending Islamic and Christian holy sites in the city.

Additionally, he warned of impediments that may prevent Christians from attending Christmas Mass in Bethlehem, stressing that Jordan will work with the international community to ensure access for worshippers.  King Abdullah further expressed Jordan’s firm condemnation of the targeting of places of worship in Gaza, noting that many have sought refuge in these places and are in need of aid.

He reiterated that any truce must lead to a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table to find a solution to the Palestinian issue based on the two-state solution, which is supported by international consensus.

No military solution can bring lasting peace in the region

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa was among those attending the meeting. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem commended Jordan’s diplomatic role in seeking an end to the war in Gaza.

“Together we seek, by all possible means, to assert the truth to the world and the international community, to stop the war immediately,” he said, stressing the urgent need for the international community to help find a new and realistic perspective for the future of Gaza and of Palestinians.

Patriarch Pizzaballa also highlighted the crucial role played by the Hashemite Kingdom in helping to preserve  the multi-religious and multi-cultural character of the Holy City and the ‘status quo’.

His words were echoed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, also present at the meeting, who warned that no military solution can bring peace in the Middle East.