CHRISTMAS STATEMENT BY JERUSALEM PATRIARCH
Archbishop Michel Sabbah
Brothers and sisters,

1. I invite you, this year again, to meditate upon the message brought by the angel to the shepherds: "I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). I ask God almighty that this message be a source of joy and spiritual strength for you in your efforts, hopes, pains, and the continuous struggle of your daily life.

2. To all our faithful, to our priests our religious, men and women, I address this message: A Savior has been born to us, capable of giving us salvation and purifying our hearts of all egoism, the cause of all evil and sin within and around us. We have started together the preparatory period to welcome the grace of the Jubilee, in the year 2000. Together we want to contemplate the glory of the Son, "the glory that he has from the Father as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).... And with our contemplation of the glory of the Son, we still hear the voice of the poor, of the oppressed and those sufferings in our society.

3. This year was one of the most difficult for our faithful and for all the Palestinian people, in Bethlehem as well in all the Palestinian cities. To them we address our message. To the Jewish people too we address this message; the Jewish people too have suffered and still suffer in their security. Moreover, both peoples are the necessary partners to the same peace.

To all we say: a Savior has been born to us; a Savior who will liberate the peoples of the earth from their sins and who will liberate our land from its adversity. The sin that prevents the realization of peace is exclusivism and the negation of the other; it is the cause of all violations of rights and human dignity. From this sin, both peoples have to be liberated.

A Savior has been born to us. He tells us that every society must be built only on love. Love means the capacity for seeing the image and the dignity of God in every and each human being, be he friend or enemy. It means the capacity to forgive and at the same time to defend all rights. It means the capacity to collaborate in the construction of the new society which must be born in our land, and which cannot be born except with the joint efforts of both peoples who live in it and who believe in its sanctity and message.

4. Jesus was born in Bethlehem; and this year, in this town, people offer their prayer their daily sufferings, in the hope that God will look upon all those who suffer in the earth and have pity. Like all other Palestinian towns, Bethlehem continues to suffer from political and economical instability which is continuing and worsening; indeed it is besieged by a system of permits, dependent upon the will of the Israeli military. Every Palestinian town is so transformed by this permits system into a large prison.

5. In the sky of Bethlehem, the angel proclaimed the message of peace, "Glory to God in the highest and peace to God's people on earth" (Lk 2:14). We ask God to strengthen the people of good will in this holy landóJews, Muslims, and Christiansóso that they become able to build the equality justice and love.

We ask God to bestow upon us his salvation, to give us his light and wisdom, to fill our hearts, our homes and our societies with his love and peace.

Michel Sabbah, Patriarch Jerusalem, Christmas 1996


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