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Christmas greetings exchanged between the churches of Jerusalem

The heads of the Churches in Jerusalem met on December 29 to exchange Christmas greetings. Dialogue with the Christian churches present in the Holy Land has been part of the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Custody for centuries; Christmas and Easter of the various liturgical calendars represent special opportunities for them to exchange greetings.

The visits to the Custody of the Holy Land took place between the morning and the early afternoon of December 29, with the arrival of the Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Copts, Syriacs and Ethiopians. The Franciscan friars then met with the Melkites.
On December 16, the friars of the Custody had already visited the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and on the afternoon of December 29, the delegation of the Patriarchate met with them again.

At each meeting, after the welcome speeches, the religious were offered drinks, chocolate and coffee. The Franciscan friars had also prepared Christmas songs and they sang them in chorus.

“On this occasion we wish to express our gratitude for mutual cooperation,” said the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III during the exchange of greetings. For this reason, he cited some examples of collaboration, such as the agreement on the restoration of the Holy Edicule last March and the joint statement for the observance of the Status Quo in the Jaffa Gate case. The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, agreed, stating that when joint statements are made “it is not because anyone is against anyone else, but it is out of love for this land.”

Fr. Patton thanked the members of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian communities for sending a representative to the Custody’s 800-year anniversary celebration in Jerusalem and to a conference on peace and dialogue in Rome and Assisi. The Armenians said they were pleased to see the Franciscan friars. The Custos then spoke of a common task: “God invites us to be messengers of hope.”

“We pray that this be a Christmas of peace and charity,” said the head of the Coptic Church in Jerusalem, Anba Antonius, who came with a delegation from the Syriac Church. “Thank you for your spirit of brotherhood and love,” said the representative of the Syriac Church. To the brothers of the Coptic Patriarchate, the Custos recalled the importance of the declaration signed by Pope Francis with Pope Tawadros. “In this declaration we can read our deep bond of friendship that has its origin in the full communion that existed among our churches in the first centuries,” he said, still assuring them of his full solidarity with them after the attacks on Coptic and Syriac Christians.

Relations were also cordial and greetings were exchanged with the Ethiopian Christians. Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, closed the events of the day for the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. Pizzaballa said, “We have experienced in recent days that, despite the difficulties of politics, we have celebrated what has become an experience: life, joy and unity. And this is an incarnate joy.”

Beatrice Guarrera

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