Speech of His Excellency Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem during the exchange of Christmas greetings with His Majesty King Abdallah.
Dead Sea, December 17, 2017
We celebrate in these days the Christmas Feast, a feat of peace and love for all humanity. And a feast that is far removed from all fear, as the angels said to the shepherds, as recorded in the Gospel: “Do not be afraid: behold, I proclaim to you a great joy that will be for all the people: today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 1:10-12).
“The Eternal Word became man and made his dwelling among us,
(Jn 1:14), and entered into our history. He did not come as a judge or with punishment. He came a little child, humble, meek, with a simple announcement of joy: “Behold, I proclaim to you a great joy”,
This proclamation, addressed to us, especially this year. Indeed, we are all hungry for joy. Be we also see that true joy is so difficult in the complex and exhausting circumstances we experience in this historic moment.
There are many religious and social reasons to celebrate and express joy, moments that we do not want to be without. But, alas, we also have reasons for raising our anxiety in your presence when we look at the social and political communities in which we live. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are two cities nearby and historically linked to each other and which are the heart of our faith life and the life of our believers’ communities. When we celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem we cannot but see Jerusalem and its difficulties.
As is well known, important declarations have been made, by which they want to change the fragile and important balance that exists in the Holy City, between the religious communities, in the Holy Places, and in the life of the city itself. We express our regret at these declarations that do not help the peace process, but rather deepen even further the already deep mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, publicly expressed his deep concern by making a heartfelt appeal to ensure that: “everyone is committed to respect the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant United Nations Resolutions. Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims, who in her venerate the Holy Places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace.”
Keeping in mind a situation of evident conflict, we hold that every one-sided solution cannot be considered a solution. Unilateral decisions will not bring peace, but rather will distance it. Jerusalem is a treasure of all humanity. Any exclusive claim – be it political or religious – is contrary to the city’s own logic.
we all know how you care for the Holy City. You, together with the Hashemite family, are the Custodian of the Holy Places of the city and of the communities that live and express themselves in those places. Many times in the past, as also on this occasion, your voice has risen in defense of the Status Quo of the city, of its communities. We all appreciate your attention to the Christian communities and your concrete support for the life of the institutions that represent them.
At the same time, we thank you for your testimony, which is one of the few sources of consolation in this tormented Middle East, we hope that you can have a voice at all international seats like the UN and UNESCO, and in the Chancelleries of the various countries, so that everyone’s attention on the thrice-Holy City, the heritage of all humanity, can protect it from unilateral decisions that humiliate and offend.
In these days, we all raise our voice, together, to strongly reiterate that, condemning every form of violence, both physical and political, we reassert our determination to cry out and to work so that the future of Jerusalem consists in sharing and not in excluding, in accepting and not in rejecting, so that all believers can have full citizenship in the Holy City.
Thanks Your Majesty for your courage. I assure you of my personal support and that of our Christian community.
May the Lord bless you!