Christmas wishes for Greek Orthodox Patriarch
JÉRUSALEM – His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 to wish Patriarch Theophilus III a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Accompanying Patriarch Twal on his visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate were Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, and Bishop Emeritus Kamal Batish, and a delegation of Latin priests and seminarians. The procession was led by the kawas and the visitors were warmly received by Patriarch Theophilus III, the clergy and members of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Patriarch Twal spoke on behalf of the Christian Churches in the Holy Land, expressing fraternal greetings of peace to our Orthodox brothers. The Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas two weeks after the Catholics, following the Julian liturgical calendar while the Catholic Church follows the Gregorian calendar. Patriarch Twal’s visit to the Greek Orthodox community was also an opportunity to discuss the way to unity according to the precept of Jesus, of reconciliation and communion between the Churches.
Patriarch Theophilos III summarized the theology of Christmas. The joy of Christmas comes from our awareness that God has loved us to the point of making a baby born of a Virgin Mother in Bethlehem. God became one of us to make us like him. The Patriarch also noted that the liturgy uses the present tense to describe the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, emphasizing that salvation is an event of the present.
The Syriac Bishop asked the unification of Christmas and Easter, while the Lutheran Bishop encouraged to resume meetings of the Council of Churches of the Middle East, an irreplaceable instrument of communion.
The exchange of wishes took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality and openness, also animated by the singing of a small choir.
Text and photos by Nicolas Scopelliti