Greetings from Jerusalem. It is our pleasure to share with you the
Christmas
message of HB Msgr. Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the
President of Caritas Jerusalem. Below is the English version. This message
is available in Spanish, French, Italian and Arabic and can be accessed from
the home page (at the bottom) of the Latin Patriarchate (www.lpj.org).

Christmas Message 2006

  1.. I wish you all a Blessed Christmas.
Brothers and Sisters here in Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Cyprus, I wish
each and every one of you joy, serenity, tranquility and peace.  This year
again, Christmas is coming to Bethlehem amid the same circumstances of death
and frustration, with the Wall and the checkpoints on the ground and in the
hearts.  The occupation and deprivation of freedom on one side, and fear and
insecurity on the other, continue as before.  Gaza remains a big prison, a
place of death and of internal Palestinian dissension.  Even children have
been killed. And everyone, including the international community, remains
powerless to find the right road to peace and justice.  Fear of the future
has engulfed the entire region: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan.  For
everyone, the future is at stake.  In this context, world terrorism is
feeding on all of the open wounds.

2.  That is the way Christmas is seen today from Bethlehem. And yet, the
Christmas message is meant to be one of life, peace, and justice.  The
prophet Jeremiah said: “In those days, I will raise up for David a just
shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land … and Jerusalem shall
dwell in security” (Jer 33, 15-16).  And Isaiah extended his vision to
include all nations: “So will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up
before all the nations” (Is 61, 11).  Saint Paul, for his part, in the
second readings of the Advent Season, tells us that we enter into the ways
of justice and peace through love of neighbor and through holiness: “May the
Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another and for
all … and may he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy
before God” (1 Thes 3, 11).

          Moreover, since the First Sunday of Advent, the Church has put
before our eyes the person of John the Baptist, the Precursor of Christ.  He
preached repentance, and various categories of people came to listen to him
and asked him questions about the ways of repentance and new life. Even
soldiers asked him what they should do to save themselves: “Soldiers also
asked him: ‘Teacher, what is it that we should do?’  He told them, ‘Do not
oppress anyone, do not extort anything, and be satisfied with your wages’”
(Lk 3, 14).

3. Today, life in Bethlehem and its surrounding area has become very
difficult to endure, in spite of the numerous initiatives of solidarity that
have come from the outside.  Yes, we are in need of solidarity, and we are
grateful for all the messages of brotherhood we have received from around
the world. But our fundamental need is for peace, justice, freedom, and an
end to the occupation. Faced with this, the world seems powerless.  However,
we say: each and every person, even soldiers and political leaders, have the
capacity to appreciate love, salvation, and life. But for that to happen, a
conversion must take place, a conversion from death to life, from viewing
the other as an enemy and a murderer to viewing him as a brother and a giver
of life.

Our political leaders also must ask the Baptist: “And what is it that we
should do to find salvation for ourselves and for all those who have put
their destiny into our hands?”  They too must be prepared to receive the
same answer:  “Do not oppress anyone, do not extort anything, and be
satisfied with your wages” (Lk 3, 14).

They must listen to the voice of the oppressed in this Holy Land, to the
voice of those who have died, of those who are still threatened by death and
humiliation, those on whom they think they can impose death or humiliation
in order to assure the security of the other party.

Bethlehem is meant to be the city of peace.  Unfortunately, it is now just
the contrary, a city of conflict and death.  Life and peace, however, would
be easy and possible to come by if only those in positions of responsibility
were sincerely determined to pursue them.  Salvation will come from bringing
the two peoples together, not from separating them.  In that lies the
salvation of the Palestinians and the Israelis, as well as of the entire
region.  The two peoples are capable of living together in peace and
tranquility.  When that comes about, murders, vengeance, rejection, and
extremism will disappear little by little, as they progressively cease to
feed on oppression, occupation, poverty, and humiliation.

4. Christmas brings joy to humanity. It announces salvation to everyone,
especially to those who live in Bethlehem and its surrounding area,
Palestinians and Israelis alike.  “Let us go to Bethlehem” and see what has
taken place and what continues to take place there (cf. Lk 2, 15). What is
the Wall telling us today? What are the inhabitants of Bethlehem telling us
today?  Let us go to Bethlehem so that we too can hear the angels announce
peace on earth, peace to all people of good will, peace to all who long for
a sincere brotherhood that rejects all hatred and hostility, and find, in
the coming together of the two peoples, both security and an end to the
occupation which will bring freedom.

For all of you, Brothers and Sisters, I pray to God that you might hear and
live the message of Christmas, a message of peace, joy, and new life.



                                                              + Michel
Sabbah, Patriarch
                                                                Latin
Patriarch of Jerusalem



Jerusalem, 20 December 2006


With every good wish,

Samuel Martin
Communications Officer
Caritas Jerusalem
P O Box 20894
Jerusalem 97200
Phone: 972 2 628 7574
Fax: 972 2 628 8421
Email: communication@caritasjr.org