In Nazareth Christmas under the theme of “Letter of the Pope to Christians of the Middle East”
NAZARETH – The Catholic and Protestant Churches of Nazareth celebrated Christmas 2014 with great pomp, but also in a contemplative mood following the impressive letter which Pope Francis addressed to Christians of the Middle East.
As usual, on Christmas Eve a long parade, crossing a considerable portion of the center of Nazareth, opened the celebrations. Took part all Scouts groups from the area, with their bugles and trumpets, Catholic Schools with their “decorations” (carriages representing different symbols of Christmas, banners, flags, etc), Family Clubs and other parish institutions.
This yearly parade, an important factor and witness of unity of the town, was preceded by the authorities, Mayor of Nazareth, Bishops Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Mgr George Bacouni and Moussa al Hage, different parish priests, organizers of the popular committee for Christmas festivities and other public figures. A large crowd, especially of children and faithful from various communities, gathered along the roads singing and cheering.
At the end of the parade, speeches and singing, colorful fireworks highlighted the whole city, spreading everywhere around an atmosphere of merriness.
Night Mass, with new technologies
Night High Mass was celebrated at the Basilica of the Annunciation by Mgr G.B. Marcuzzo, Latin patriarchal Vicar for Israel, concelebrated by the guardian Fr Bruno Varriano, ofm, parish priest Fr Amjad Sabbara, and some dozen other clergy from Nazareth communities. The Basilica was packed with local parishioners, pilgrims and some Jews who, privately or in small groups, wish to attend especially the first part of the Mass.
Two new items added a special tone to the celebration: the new lighting of the Basilica and the new audiovisual system. From now on, the Basilica of the Annunciation, with its upper and lower parts, enjoys attractive lighting. All major paintings and beautiful mosaics of the Virgin Mary donated by different countries are vividly illuminated. From now on the Basilica is equipped with a permanent system of audiovisual transmission, very useful for daily or weekly programs of the Basilica which the Custody, with the help of Cancao Nova Community and in conjunction with 48 Christian TV networks, plan to transmit regularly across the whole world. Israel TV took advantage of these improvements and transmitted Christmas Mass twice on that day, directly at 7.30 pm and later at Midnight.
The whole celebration ran off under the theme of the letter which Pope Francis addressed to “Christians of the Middle East”, central core of the homily. Answering questions posed by Christians – “How to celebrate Christmas and in such difficult and challenging situation? – Mgr Marcuzzo pointed out the three levels of the Pope’s fatherly exhortation: “Be born again in Jesus; renew the unity relations among Christians; start new bonds of peace, reconciliation and collaboration with non Christians”
A paragraph of this letter was also read as a stimulant for local Christians: “May you always stand witness to Jesus across hardships! Your presence is crucial for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but bearing a big responsibility on Earth where Christianity was born and spread out. You are like the yeast in dough. Before the manifold missions of the Church in educational, health or humanitarian fields, universally valued, the biggest wealth for the world are you Christians, you are the ones. Thank you for your steadfastness!”
Text: our correspondent in Nazareth
Photos: M.S. and A.K.