The Patriarch’s mass celebrates the arrival of Christmas. The opening of the Holy Door in Bethlehem expresses the desire of Palestinians and of the entire world for peace and mercy.
The merciful face of God is the essence of this Christmas: Pope Francis’ call will echo throughout the Christian world, as well as here in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.
The first ceremony of the Holy Night program was the opening of the Holy Door that leads to the Grotto of the Nativity. The ceremony was presided over by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, along with the religious authorities.
The Mass was attended by Palestinian Authorities, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other civil representatives, along with religious from the Holy Land and from around the world.
“Compassion must include everyone, near and far,” the Patriarch wrote in his homily, read by Mons. William Shomali, who then recalled the millions of refugees scattered in camps and barracks, suffering from the cold winter. “Compassion also affects all areas of public life on all levels: political, economic, cultural and social realms.”
The Patriarch made a plea to those who hold the peoples’ fate in their hands, those who make political choices that resolve in death, in order for them to repent and allow human dignity to prevail over their own material interests. He said that mercy is not a sign of weakness but an expression of divine omnipotence. The ceremony ended with a greeting to all those present and to those who followed the event on television. He also greeted all the inhabitants of the Holy Land: Christians, Muslims, Jews and Samaritans.
A symbolic gesture of great tenderness was made after the Mass: the procession to the Grotto of the Nativity with the Child Jesus, who has been called the Prince of Peace for centuries and is now also known as the ‘merciful face of God’.