2016 in the Holy Land

Posted on Dec 30, 2016

The Christian Media Center presents 2016 in review: key events by month in the Holy Land. A year filled with changes and news.

Accepting the invitation of Pope Francis, the Holy Land opened its Holy Doors for the great Jubilee of Mercy.

The first was that of Gethsemane

Followed by Bethlehem, on Christmas night of 2015

And then Nazareth, in the Basilica of the Annunciation

and Gaza, Haifa, Amman and Nicosia. Thousands of pilgrims from around the world entered the sanctuaries, in search of the merciful face of God.

On May 20, the Vatican Press issued the communiqué which disclosed the following announcement: “Father Francesco Patton is the new Custos of the Holy Land. He succeeds Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who led the Custody for the past twelve years.”

On June 6, at the Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem welcomed the new Custos of the Holy Land. “I am going in as a brother with the confidence of knowing that it is the Lord who leads history” are the first words of Father Francesco Patton. Together with the friars of the Custody, the Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Lazzarotto, a delegation of the Latin Patriarchate, and also representatives of other Christian denominations in Jerusalem and the civil and religious congregations authorities welcomed Father Francesco Patton.

In June, the discharge of Patriarch Fouad Twal took place. Father Twal served Mother Church for eight years. Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the pastoral governance of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, presented for reasons of age. The Holy Land responded to the patriarch with several gestures of gratitude.

On June 24, the Pope appointed Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa as Apostolic Administrator of the vacant see of the Latin Patriarcate of Jerusalem, elevating him to the dignity of archbishop, assigning him the titular see of Verbe.

On September 28, Shimon Peres, the last of the founding fathers of the state of Israel, died. Among the salient events of the life of the former president and Nobel Peace Prize, we recall the meeting between him and Mahmoud Abbas with Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican Gardens, on June 8, 2014 … for many a historic meeting .

206 years later, scholars and religious authorities were able to see again the rock where Jesus was buried. For the first time since 1810, the marble slab covering the place beneath which the remains of the tomb of Jesus lie, has been moved. Opened for the first time since at least 1555 AD, works are expected to be completed by next Easter, when communities present in Jerusalem and throughout the world will together proclaim: “He is not here … He is risen!”.

In Bethlehem, a new ‘treasure’ was discovered. The skilled hands of the restorers of the Italian company PIACENTI Spa, restored the mosaics of the Basilica of the Nativity back to their former glory. A really important restoration and beauty that leaves one speechless. The seventh angel was the last sensational discovery: no one knew of its existence, or rather, everyone believed it was destroyed like most of the 2 thousand square meters of the original mosaic, of which only less than 200 meters are visible.

The Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo in Jordan was reopened with a big event, which was held on October 15 and 16. After years of being closed to the public, the sanctuary entrance plaza welcomed hundreds of guests for the inauguration of one of the shrines and the most important and visited archaeological sites in the country. With the symbolic gesture of the opening of the doors of the basilica, all were invited to come in and to contemplate the harmony of the colors of the beautiful mosaics restored and put back into safety. Pilgrims and visitors will be able to return to admire some of the most beautiful mosaics of Jordan and the basilica that contains them, dedicated to Moses, the friend of God.

2016 was a year of great suffering by the refugees and the war victims, mainly in Syria. As Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa said:

Also, a message of hope has arrived from Syria.

Fr. IBRAHIM ALSABAGH, ofm
Parish Priest – Aleppo
“This will be the fifth time we celebrate Christmas amid sufferings here in Aleppo. We hope the new birth of the King of Peace brings a new birth to Aleppo, Syria, and also peace to the whole world.”

This is the Christmas message from Aleppo, Syria, from the parish priest Ibrahim Alsabagh. Since the beginning of the conflict, at least 40,000 people have died. Two-thirds of the Christians fled the country: out of the 300,000 people who lived in Aleppo before the war, there are barely 50,000 left in the city. A massacre that continues for years, month after month. Yet, when it seems impossible to even utter the word hope, hope re-emerges in the faces of the children of the parish and in their Christmas greetings.