Every year, the exchange of Christmas greetings is an occasion for the heads of the Churches of the Holy Land to meet and an important time for building up fraternal dialogue. This was again the case on Friday 27th December when the different delegations of the Christian Orthodox communities came to St Saviour’s Convent in Jerusalem to bring their Christmas greetings. During the day, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, together with other Franciscans from the fraternity, welcomed the Greek Orthodox, the Armenians, the Copts and the Syriacs and a representation of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. On the same day, the friars went to visit the Melkite Patriarchate.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, in his speech of greetings, mentioned the positive collaboration in undertaking the second phase of restoration of the Holy Sepulchre and stressed the importance of keeping the Christian character of Jerusalem: “Life in the world depends on keeping Jerusalem as a place of hope for every person of good will, where we can live together in mutual respect.” In reply, Fr. Patton ensured the support of the Custody in obtaining justice in the case of the building at the Jaffa Gate and in other similar cases.
Father Siwan, vicar of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, stressed the importance of the reciprocal visits during the festivities, so that God can help make the relations between Christians stronger and stronger. “I hope that the day will come when we will show the world that the Church in Jerusalem is truly one only,” answered the Custos of the Holy Land.
Representatives of the Coptic Patriarchate and of the Syriac Patriarchate were then received together at St Saviour’s Convent. “I wish a blessed new year for all the sick and suffering and above all to our brothers in Syria and Iraq,” said the representative of the Syriac community. The Custos expressed his wish for peace to the brothers of the Coptic Church and those who live in Egypt and his closeness to the Syriac Church, ensuring prayers for peace in Syria.
The Franciscans and the Melkites, during the meeting for the Christmas greetings, remarked upon the deep meaning of Christmas and the importance of praying for the unity of all the Christians in the Holy Land.
In the afternoon, the friars of the Custody received the brothers of the Ethiopian Church. “Beyond the protocol, these are truly fraternal meetings,” said the Custos.
A delegation from the Latin Patriarchate then came to exchange the Christmas greetings that the Franciscans had taken on their visit of 19th December to the Patriarchate. “May the light of the Lord light up each one of you for the precious services that the Church has entrusted to you,” said Mons. Pizzaballa . “Your service lets you meet people who have come to the Holy Land from all over the world to meet God who, dressed in our flesh, has clothed us in his light. Happy Christmas!”