For centuries, Patriarchs of the Latin Church in Jerusalem have journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in honor of Christ’s birth, mirroring the path of the first journey made by Joseph and Mary over two thousand years ago. On Christmas Eve 2015, the current Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, continued this historical tradition and led the annual
It was a jubilant occasion as the streets filled with thousands of people – local Palestinians and foreigners alike – beneath bright Christmas lights and decorations. Sounds of trumpets and drums filled the air as scout troops from all over Palestine marched along, making way for the Patriarchal procession. The path from Jerusalem winds down Star Street, through Manger Square, until it finally arrives to the Church of Nativity. Collectively, these locations
At midnight, the Patriarch celebrated the Christmas Midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah were among those in attendance honoring the birth of Christ as well as the rich cultural tradition of Palestinian Christians.
During his homily, Patriarch Twal reflected on the promises of Christ while somberly acknowledging the ongoing plight of Palestinians: “We live in a land of conflict, and it seems to have no end. To arrive here for this mass I had to cross checkpoints, a concrete wall, and soldiers with their rifles. I had to submit to the realities of occupation. I hope this separation between us will end, both physically and spiritually. Peace does not come from separation – it comes from justice, mutual respect and dignity. This is why worship Christ, for His salvation brings peace, first within ourselves, then with others.”
The Mass was completed when the Patriarch proceeded to the Grotto of the Nativity, holding a symbolic representation of the infant Christ. This symbol of the infant Jesus was set upon the Silver Star in the Grotto that marks His original birthplace, where prophecy and the hope for salvation was fulfilled for all.