Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Christmas message 2001

Brothers and Sisters,

To you all I wish a Blessed Christmas and a happy new year, full of peace and joy. We welcome Christmas once again after having lived one year of death, demolition and fear. Despair began to fill the hearts of some who took the decision to leave us and to emigrate. Others remained with us to lead the struggle of daily life and to carry their mission and their message of hope, peace and justice in this land.

We welcome the feast with its deep and live bringing mystery: "A Savior has been born to us who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2, 11). We adore God's mystery that appeared to us, the day of the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Word, as affirmed by Saint Paul: “God's grace has been revealed and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race" (Titus 2,11). And it is in the mediation of this mystery that we recover our security, roots of our liberty and our peace. In spite of bullets of death which arrived until the basilica and the square of the nativity, symbol of peace for humanity, we shall listen to the voice of the angels and their song in the sky of Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour" (Luke 2, 14). Yes, the peace on earth is bound to the glory that we give back to God and to the love, which makes us similar to his image and likeness, we who suffered and who have been toughly tormented during this year.

God is near, even though he appears far away. He is the master of history. He sees what his servants do and He exercises patience. But we also know that every good and every evil will have its retribution in this life, either in the life of persons or in that of peoples. The continuous injustice in this Holy Land, the occupation of the land, the humiliation of the people, their massacre, the siege that is imposed on them, their deprivation of the liberty that God gave them, all this will have an end one day. We will see then in this land, God's face, the peace, and the liberty of all its children, Palestinians and Israelis.

Brothers and Sisters, we invite you to celebrate Christmas and to penetrate its deep significance, because we need today more than ever all spiritual strength in us in order to renew our courage. Our message to all Christians on this feast, source of joy and peace for the world, and to all Palestinians, is a message of patience, hope and courage to survive all probations. Our message is also the next one: the branch of olive is the most efficient weapon in the hand of the Palestinian, in his resistance to recover his Land and his liberty.

Our message to the Jewish people is also a message of hope, but an invitation also to rectify the measures taken by their governors: the people must start making the peace that governors didn't manage to achieve until now. The goodness of God and his grace can be more present in the soul of the people more than in the plans of politicians or militaries. Peoples must be capable to meet, not as fighters or carriers of death one to another, but in the deepest of their humanity, as human beings created to construct this Holy Land, without necessarily passing by fear, death and vengeance. Because peace with justice is not impossible. Peace in the good neighborhood is possible. Peace that puts end to the occupation, which puts an end to the military action since 1967, this is also possible.  Peace that puts end to the occupation, that frees soldiers, sends them back into society and to their families and gives them back the capacity to love and to construct, instead of to maintaining them under orders that oblige them to stain their hands with the blood of others. This is also possible and necessary. All violence that doesn't stop threatening the security of the daily life will stop, when the occupation ends, and justice will be made to all, both Israelis and Palestinians, all enjoy the same liberty and the same security.

Therefore, we need today in the Holy Land, not leaders who teach us to make war, who ask their peoples to accept sacrifices, including their lives, but leaders who have visions of justice and have the courage to realize peace, even if they have to pay a high price from their own lives, i.e the martyrdom. We need leaders "of the race of those who seek God and who pursue His face" (Ps 23, 6).

The peace is near as God is near to each of us. Brothers and Sisters, beside all our human efforts, beyond all possible human fights, let's put our confidence in God, as said by Saint Paul: "The Lord is very near… in all needs pray… then God's peace, that surpasses all intelligence, will guard your hearts and your thoughts " (Philip 4, 5-7).

Merry and Holy Christmas, Christmas of hope, joy, justice and peace.

+ Michel Sabbah

Patriarch Latin of Jerusalem

Peace & Justice March from Bethlehem to Jerusalem  Hereby we would like to draw your attention to the following event.The last day of the year, December 31, 2001, will be celebrated by a demonstrative march leading from Bethlehem through the main checkpoint into Jerusalem. The march will culminate in prayer for peace in both Al-Aqsa Mosque and Saint Anne’s Church and then a human ring around the Old City walls symbolizing a protective embracement. Itinerary  At 10:00 participants will depart from Nissan, Bethlehem; pass through the checkpoint, and stop at Mar Elias (11:00). At that location marchers will take buses to the New Gate (12:00) from where they jointly walk to the Lion’s Gate (13:00). Christians gather at St Anne’s, and Moslems at Al-Aqsa. After prayers (14:30) the participants spread out towards different sections of the Old City walls to create the human ring. The president of Pax Christi International, Mgr. Michel Sabbah, will lead the march in Bethlehem together with other church representatives. Demands

The non-violent “justice and peace” march is designed to make two simple but powerful demands for the new year: Open Jerusalem End OccupationIn announcing these demands to the world, the marchers wish to express their deep-felt commitment to end the suffering and violence, and to work for a peace marked by justice and reconciliation.The march a campaign sign/logo with an image of the olive tree and an original design using the colours of the Palestinian flag (black, white, red and green).Persons of all religious and national affiliations, and of all sections of the society, are invited to join as individuals. The march will be accompanied by international civilian observers who will form a “tunnel of protection” in front of the Bethlehem/Jerusalem checkpoint. They will also join the ring.People from other areas, too, are invited to come to Jerusalem and join the ring. Nature of march

The nature of the march is as follows:
The march will be calm.

Participants will be encouraged to sing or pray.

Local and international music groups will be invited to play.

Participants will hold olive branches and wear various articles marked by the campaign sign: caps, buttons and ribbons.

There will be moments of silence to commemorate the victims.

Wishes and prayers coming from persons from all over the world will be attached to balloons and distributed among the participants. At the Lion’s Gate, the balloons will be lifted into the air, a gesture to symbolize the universal right to freedom.

There will be texts in Arabic, English en Hebrew to explain the march’s aims and non-violent nature.

Some 100 persons responsible for order will be instructed beforehand and will be clearly marked during the march.


The march will be announced and explained by local and national TV, radio and press, in churches and mosques, and among internationals including clergy.

Simple posters will be distributed in the larger Bethlehem-Jerusalem area.

At the end of the march and human ring, a press conference will be held by the religious leaders to explain the initiative.
Action context

The marches will take place in the context of a series of other planned activities including
23/12, 10:00: Decoration Christmas Tree at Orient House in Jerusalem (GIPP)

25/12: Candle procession/march Beit Sahour-Bethlehem-Jerusalem (Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between Peoples)
The march is the beginning of a larger campaign to organize marches between Bethlehem and Jerusalem with a focus on the two abovementioned demands.


The Bethlehem-Jerusalem march will fall under the responsibility of:
The Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem

Grassroots Internatioinal Protection for the Palestinian People (GIPP)

Civil organizations in the Bethlehem area including Arab Educational Institute (AEI), Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between Peoples, Conflict Resolution Center Wi’am, Arab Orthodox Society, and the Scouts Troops Leaders in Bethlehem.

United Civilians for Peace (UCP) takes part in the preparations as observer.

The march is prepared in coordination with the High Islamic Council of Al  Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.International support in the form of an endorsement of the two demands and the march will be coordinated by GIPP, Rapprochement and the Arab Educational Institute and, in The Hague, by Pax Christi Netherlands and the Interchurch Peace Council (IKV). Pax Christi International (Brussels) will appeal to its members and others to send wishes and prayers.We appreciate your support and involvement.Thank you very much for your attention, Sincerely,The organizing committee(GIPP, AEI, Rapprochement, Church leaders (Jerusalem, Fr Raed), Arab Orthodox Society, Wi’am and Scouts Troops Leaders, with UCP as observer)   Contact for any further information:AEI  (secretariat, Bethlehem): 02-2744030GIPP (Ramallah): 02-2963847Rapprochement (Beit Sahour): 02-2772018Wi’am (Bethlehem): 02-2770513Church Leaders (Jerusalem): 02-6282323 (Fr Raed)Scouts Troops Leaders (Bethlehem): 052-284450Arab Orthodox Society (Bethlehem): 02-2742001  We are grateful to the Dutch development organization CORDAID which provides support for the logistics of the march
Fr. Raed Abusahlia

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
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