On 22 December, just before Christmas, the penitential liturgy organized by the parish priest fr. Amjad Sabbara and the parish community on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the “Christmas of Greccio” was held in the church of St Saviour in Jerusalem.
The Holy Father has granted an extraordinary plenary indulgence linked to the important anniversary of the Franciscan community, for all those who, until 2 February 2024 – according to what the Apostolic Penitentiary established – go to visit the churches of the Franciscan families all over the world and pray in front of the Nativity scenes.
The liturgy was presided over by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, whose presence gave comfort, joy and hope to the local faithful, who in these difficult times gathered in large numbers, to share a moment of prayer and invocation for peace, together with all those who are suffering and are committed to breaking the chain of violence.
Penitence also contains joy
“While the population in the Holy Land continues to live through dramatic and violent days, we feel the need to turn to God again to implore for peace and the conversion of hearts,” the Cardinal said at the start of the penitential celebration. “When we ask God for forgiveness, let’s remember to also ask for forgiveness for the sins that are being committed against our brothers and sisters in our land.”
“Despite the problems that we are living through, we must also express our joy and our gratitude,” H.B. Pizzaballa continued. “The time of penitence also contains joy: because bringing our fragility before God and recognizing our sins means having the experience of His forgiveness and His mercy, which we all need.”
The joy in the singing of the three choirs
The joy of song echoed in the church throughout the liturgy, punctuated by the voices of the three choirs that animated the prayer with the traditional Christmas repertoire: the Jerusalem Knights Choir conducted by Hani Kreitem, the choir of the Custody of the Holy Land conducted by Jamil Freij and Raja'a Band conducted by Suhail Asfour.
“We thank the choirs who have sung one after the other,” was the thought the Cardinal addressed to them. “Their presence is testimony of the vitality and liveliness of this parish. May Christmas be a moment of joy and smiles in our homes: my wish for all of you is that the Lord who comes brings joy, consolation and peace into our hearts, our families and our homes.”