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24TH DECEMBER 2004. CELEBRATION OF THE MIDNIGHT MASS AT BETHLEHEM

Date: Friday, December 24th, 2004
Source: Custody of the Holy Land



The parish church of Saint Catherine, adjacent to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, was packed with pilgrims, local Christians, priests and Franciscan friars of the Holy Land Custody, for the celebration of the Nativity Mass. The cold did not prevent all the participants to enjoy the festive atmosphere of Christmas.
As the faithful were entering and taking their places in the church, the Franciscan students of the philosophical and theological seminary of Jerusalem prepared all present by readings and songs regarding the Nativity in various languages.
At 11.15 p.m. the Latin Patriarch solemnly entered the church, which was full to capacity with believers from all continents. More than a hundred priests concelebrated Mass. The Patriarch was accompanied by his Auxiliary Bishop Mons. Kamal-Hanna Bathish, the Armenian Patriarchal Esarchate Mons. Kérvoc Khazoumian, the Catholic Syrian Patriarchal Esarchate Mons. Pierre Melki, and a bishop from Romania who came to visit the Romanian Catholic community living in the Holy Land. Also present during Mass were the Honorary Consuls who traditionally represent the Catholic nations. The celebration started with the singing of the Office of the Readings. The proclamation of the Nativity of the Lord from the Roman Martyrology followed, and afterwards, according to custom, the bells and the organ contributed to the intense festive atmosphere of Christmas in Bethlehem. The first Sacristan, Brother Matías Lopez, uncovered the traditional image of the Child Jesus, which was artistically placed on an olive branch at the foot of the altar. The faithful sang the Gloria of the “Missa de Angelis”, with parts sang in polyphony by the “Schola Cantorum” of the Holy Land Custody. During the homily the Patriarch welcomed the representatives of the Palestinian Authority, and afterwards spoke about the meaning of the mystery of Christmas in the context of the current situation in the Holy Land. The homily (LINK) was delivered first in Arabic and then in French. After the concluding prayer of the Mass, the Patriarch and all the concelebrants formed the procession towards the Nativity Grotto. The Patriarch was carrying the image of the Child Jesus in his arms. When the procession arrived at the altar of the Star, a deacon placed the image of the Child Jesus upon the Star of Bethlehem. Another deacon sang the Gospel according to Saint Luke (2,1-14) and also re-enacted the Gospel narrative he was singing by wrapping swaddling cloths around the image of the Child Jesus and placing it in the Manger, which is found in the tiny chapel on the right hand side of the altar of the Nativity, in the lowest place of the Nativity Grotto. After the deacon had finished singing the Gospel, another deacon proclaimed the indulgence and the Patriarch gave the papal blessing. The procession immediately returned to the church of Saint Catherine with the singing of the Te Deum, the joyful hymn which concluded the Mystery of the Nativity of Our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Enrique Bermejo Cabrera ofm




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Created / Updated Friday, 8 October, 2004 at 7:48:46 am by J. Abela, E.Alliata, E. Bermejo
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