Patriarchs and Head of Christian Communities in Jerusalem Christmas Message 1996

Beloved Brothers and in Sisters in Christ,

As we welcome the dawning of a new Christmas, we are reminded of howthe angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest and peace to God's peopleon Earth." (Luke 2:14)

1996, however, has not been a year of peace for people in the Holy Land.Instead, we have witnessed the harvest of hatred and enmity manifestingitself in the form of death and suffering amongst allthe children of our forefather Abraham. Hope has turned to despairand goodwill to mistrust. Suicide bombings, wholesale closures and risingextremism have impacted Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Hopes for peacehave been stunted by human violence and unyielding postures.

At such a critical period, we need to turn again to the infant Jesus,born in a modest manger in Bethlehem. We need to make room for the Saviourchild in our hearts if we want to overstep mistrust and mutual negation.If the child cannot be born in our hearts, then the child will not be bornat all. Are we willing to transform our hearts into cribs that are readyto receive God and facilitate His presence within us? Are we ready to implementChrist's command to love one another - a command as relevant to our worldwhich stands on the threshold of the new millennium as it was 2000 yearsago?

AT this time of uncertain peace, the Christian community is called innurture Christ's presence in this land. We must be the crib that embracesand protects the Prince of Peace, that represents the message of love andhope to the whole community and to all peoples. We must prepare Him roomso that we might be His hands and feet, taking the initiative for peace.We need to teach ourselves how to go beyond our own human restrictionsand limitations as well as those we impose upon others. The Christmasmessage leads us to seek a place where there is openness, room for commongrowth and new beginnings.

As we look to a new year, we also pray for renewed hope amongst thetwo peoples of this land. Let all governments respectthe dignity and human rights of everyone. Let all people respect othersas they respect themselves and, as called for by the prophet Amos, Letjustice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream(5:24).

As Children of God, we all have a duty to pray and work for peace andto suffer with those whose lives are dimmed by the darkness of oppression.We cherish all efforts toward peace in the Holy Land. We wish God's wisdomand guidance to all the political leaders; may they have the strength andenjoy success so that our region will be blessed with the fruits of theirmutual efforts - the joy of real peace. That should be our Christmas giftto each other and the real fruit of the Christmas season.

We pray that our Saviour the Christ child, who has power over all evil,fills you with His blessings, May He bless you in the name of the Father,the son and the Holy Spirit, One God Forever and Ever, Amen.

Jerusalem, Christmas 1996