Holy Land: 'May the sound of bells drown out the noise of weapons'



Appeals for peace were made during all the liturgies in Bethlehem and Jerusalem for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

At the Midnight Mass attended by President Mahmoud Abbas,  Mr Prime Minister, Salam Fayad and many pilgrims, Patriarch Fouad Twal said: "During this Christmas season, may the sound of the bells of our churches drown the noise of weapons in our wounded Middle East, calling all men to peace and the joy.  A joy which radiates from every face, a rejoicing that penetrates every heart!

"Let us pray together for peace:  "Peace be upon Israel, Palestine, our people and throughout the Middle East, so that our children may live and grow in a peaceful and joyful environment.

"Dear brothers and sisters, dear pilgrims, dear friends, the peace of the Divine Child in the grotto be with you all!   Do not leave us alone in this difficult time and situation.   Pray for us, we will do the same for you.  Merry Christmas!"

The Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate welcomed hundreds of the faithful of Jerusalem who were invited by His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Peace. Mass intention was for peace through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, entrusting to her the affairs and concerns of the past year and the intentions, hopes, dreams for the new year.

Every year on the 1st of January, Bishops, Patriarchal Exarchs, the Custos, Abbots, superiors of religious congregations, nuns, priests, families and young people of all nationalities gather around the altar to pray for peace, Church unity, the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and for peace in the Holy Land and the world.

The Patriarch announced the attack on a community of Christians while celebrating Mass on New Year's eve, a tragedy in Alexandria, Egypt.  The car explosion caused 21 deaths and more than 50 people wounded. Despair, fear, and suffering must not turn us away from faith but encourage us to call on the Lord for strength and courage to follow Jesus our master in embracing the Cross.

The Latin Patriarch reminded the congregation of Pope Benedict's words, describing   the Middle East  Synod as "one of the most beautiful and important events of 2010". "Important themes such as ecumenical dialogue, strengthening of the faith of the people of God inspired by the Word of God, the unity of Christians were addressed in an atmosphere of intense ecclesial communion among the participants. Thanks to religious communities for the intensity of their prayers for the Synod.

"The emigration of Christians in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, "is a loss for the universal Church, for Muslims as well as for Jews. Christians can play a role of mediators in a conflict that has lasted too long."

The Patriarch stated with conviction that violence and force do not lead to anything positive but have dramatically worsened our situation. Leaders and rulers are unable to make peace! Only Christ can give peace, his peace is not one of the world!

The Franciscan friars served at the altar, the Magnificat choir sang beautiful and animated hymns. After the final blessing, His Beatitude and a number of Ordinaries of the Holy Land received greetings and wishes of the faithful for the new year.

Claudette Habesch, Secretary General of Caritas Jerusalem has sent this message:

We welcome Christmas in the face of the poor, the lonely and the troubled, who during this time can feel more isolated, forgotten and abandoned.  As we gather around our loved ones to celebrate the blessed season of Christmas, we are called to remember those who most need us, who most need our prayers, and our extended hand.

Life in the Holy Land continues to be difficult to endure in spite of the numerous initiatives of solidarity that accompany us through our arduous journey. Our fundamental need continues to be for peace, justice, and freedom, and the end of the Israeli occupation.

Ours  is not a new message. The message of peace and love has been roaming the land for the last two thousand years. Let us open our hearts and ears to the true message and true spirit of this Christmas to guide us in whatever we seek.

From each person we touched with rays of hopes and from all of us at Caritas Jerusalem, we wish you a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.

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