The Franciscan community extends its traditional wishes for Christmas to the Armenian Church of Jerusalem | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The Franciscan community extends its traditional wishes for Christmas to the Armenian Church of Jerusalem

Jerusalem, 21st January 2012

On the morning of Saturday 21st January a large representation of Franciscan friars of Jerusalem, led by the Custodial Vicar Brother Artemio Vitores, went to visit the Armenian community to extend their Christmas wishes. Thus exchanging the cordial and friendly gesture by the Armenian Church on 27th December 2011, when the Franciscan friars received their wishes for the Catholic Christmas celebrations. In the Holy Land, the differences in the calendar and rites mean that Christmas celebrations continue for a longer period than elsewhere. In particular, on 6th January, when the Catholics celebrate the feast-day of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Orthodox Churches (Greek, Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian) begin Christmas time. And on 19th January, when the feast-day of the Epiphany falls for the Orthodox, the Armenian community is celebrating both Christmas and the Epiphany, combined on a single feast-day, bringing the long Christmas period in the Holy Land to a close.

In procession with the kawas from the Convent of St. Saviour and through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, to the Armenian Quarter with its streets winding from the right of the Jaffa Gate, the group of Franciscan friars, including Brother Silvio De La Fuente, Secretary of the Custody, Brother Noel Muscat, discreet of the Holy Land and many students from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, was warmly received by the community of Armenian monks and seminarians. The guests were then received in a splendid hall with elegant tapestries and dominated by a majestic painting of Christ on the back wall. In his brief speech, Brother Vitores underlined the value of this tradition of the exchange of Christmas wishes which binds the Christian communities of the Holy Land and recalled with satisfaction the fraternal relations that there have always been between the Armenian Church and the Franciscan family of the Custody. After the cordial words pronounced by the Armenian religious authorities, the meeting continued with a serene convivial moment, during which the traditional dessert was offered to the guests with coffee and a liqueur. A group photo sealed the pleasant encounter.

On the Saturday afternoon, after the official meetings and the celebrations of the Christmas period for all the Christian confessions, the Week of prayer for Christian Unity, which this year has as its theme We will all be changed by the victory of Jesus Christ Our Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15,51-58) also began in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Due to the prolonged Christmas celebrations, in the Holy Land this Week normally begins a few days late. With these moving encounters of common prayer, the significant and invaluable story of openness and reciprocal approach that the Christian Churches of the Holy Land continue with commitment and solicitude, carried on along a road that is not always easy but deeply and authentically human and Christian.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Brother Giorgio Vigna