In Gaza: early celebration of our Savior’s birth!
His Beatitude, Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem went to Gaza on Wednesday, December 22nd, to visit the small Catholic community and celebrate Christmas a few days in advance.
A full delegation from the Latin Patriarchate, crossed the walls surrounding the Gaza Strip, to meet with the Christian community and celebrate the Christmas Mass.
Thanks to the meticulous preparation and coordination of Father Humam Khzouz, General Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate with the Israeli authorities, two diplomatic cars carrying the delegation quickly crossed the checkpoint. Traveling with the Patriarch was a group led by Father Humam, with Father Majdi Siryani, Director General of Schools, Father Marcello Gallardo, Vice Chancellor, Father Gabriel Romanelli, Father Mario Cornioli, and Mother Ines Al-Yacoub, Superior General of the Sisters of the Rosary. A media team: three Italian journalists, Franciscan Media Center, CMA TV 2000, two cameramen, and Andrea and Lorenzo from the Family of the Visitation.
“We start Christmas with this mass” assured Father Jorge Hernandez, the Latin parish priest of Gaza, “a long and intense preparation path leading us to the feast today.” The parishioners, even in the midst of suffering, like all other residents of Gaza, were particularly involved in the preparations. We not only prepared the crèche in the Church, but have participated in many meetings and pastoral encounters, visited homes, especially the sick. (…) We welcome with great affection our Patriarch who comes to bring a word of consolation and encouragement. ”
Nearly 200 people attended the Mass. In his homily, (in Arabic) the Patriarch said that “the Child of Bethlehem teaches us humility, meekness, simplicity and innocence in a world marked by violence(…). “Whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant “(Matt. 20:26), and “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23.12). This Child is born into a loving family, a place of love. It reminds us that the family is the basic unit of society, a safe place for the physical, mental and spiritual development of every child. The Child of Bethlehem teaches us that love is first of all values, and invites us to seek unity, to avoid divisions in our families, our communities, our cities, our nations and between religions. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and with all your strength and love thy neighbor as thyself. Love your enemies and pray for those who hate you … bless and curse not “(Mt 5, 43-44).
At the end of Mass, under a sunny almost spring-like weather, the sound of the drums and pipes of the Scout Group filled the atmosphere with a sense of joy and celebration. The Patriarch and his delegation exchanged greetings with Christian families. Before lunch, a quick and very meaningful visit was made to the Jordanian hospital, where much work is done in the care for the sick in the Gaza strip, often in very difficult working conditions. In view of Jordanian origin of the Patriarch, the steering committee gave him a very warm welcome and reception.
All the sisters from the four congregations serving the parish community, dignitaries, the delegation of the Patriarch, journalists and friends gathered and shared in a lunch catered by one of the best restaurants in Gaza. Delighted, joyful and edified by the beautiful community spirit in Gaza and witnessing a strong faith, alive in the midst of ‘darkness’, the Patriarch and his delegation returned to Jerusalem, inspired and invigorated by the experience of the day
Here are the pictures of the special Christmas day in Gaza.