Traditional Exchange of Christmas greetings with the Christian Churches of the Holy Land | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Traditional Exchange of Christmas greetings with the Christian Churches of the Holy Land

Jerusalem, St. Saviour’s Convent, 26th - 27th December 2011

On the days following Christmas, 26th and 27th December, as is now a well-established tradition, the representatives of the different Christian churches of Jerusalem, in particular those that collaborate according to the rules of the Status Quo, met for a fraternal exchange of greetings, with a sincerely friendly and open spirit. The first to be received at the Custody’s Curia, at St. Saviour’s Convent, on the morning of 26th December, were the Greek Orthodox religious, followed, on 27th December, by the Armenians, the Ethiopians, the Copts and the Syrians. In the late morning of 27th December, it was the Franciscans who went to visit the Melkite community for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings.

The guests were received in the Diwan of the Convent by the Custos, Brother Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodial Vicar, Brother Artemio Vitores, the Secretary, Brother Silvio De La Fuente and a large part of the community of the friars. A group of young friars, students at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, were also present and the melodies they played with guitars and percussion instruments were a delightful accompaniment to the visits.

The meetings follow a consolidated ceremonial, regularly repeated on the different visits: first the head of the guest delegation greets the Custos and the whole community of the friars, he thanks them for the invitation received and extends his wishes for Christmas, wishing the best for the future and underlining the bonds of friendship with the Franciscans; the Custos then replies in the same way, saying similar things. Liqueurs and Christmas sweetmeats are then served, whilst the conversation becomes more informal, until the visit comes to a conclusion and the guests depart, with cordial greetings. After Epiphany, when the Oriental Churches will also be celebrating Christmas, it will be the Custos and the Franciscan community that make the visits to exchange greetings.

Lastly, in the late afternoon of 27th December, there was the meeting at the Custody for the traditional exchange of greetings, but less formally than with the other Christian communities, with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, H.B. Mons. Fouad Twal, and then with the Apostolic Nonce, H.E. Mons. Antonio Franco, with whom the Custos briefly spoke about how the Christmas celebrations had gone in the past few days and during which, as usual, they had all been involved in the complicated liturgical, organizational and security requirements.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marco Gavasso