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Franciscan Friary,
St. Francis Str. 1,



Date: Saturday, December 25th, 2004
Source: Custody of the Holy Land

The celebrations in Bethlehem continued after the Midnight Mass all during Christmasday. The participation of the faithful, particularly of those coming from the town of Bethlehem, was very strong, but they were not alone, as we shall see. The morning of 25 December was rather rainy and cold, but all the same a large crowd of faithful gathered in the parish church for the Mass with the bishop, His Beatitude the Patriarch Michel Sabbah. Among the concelebrants there was the parish priest of Bethlehem, Father Amjad Sabbara, who is a Franciscan born in Jersualem. The church was full to capacity with faithful of all ages. The atmosphere was festive. The Mass was celebrated in Arabic, as well as all the readings and songs. The singing provided an atmosphere in which one could lift up his spirit to the contemplation of the mystery. The assembly was led by the parish choir in the songs. The Patriarch during the homily spoke to the faithful in familiar terms, encouraging them to live the Christian faith with optimism in spite of the current difficuties. His Beatitude recalled also that we are celebrating the year of the Eucharist and that the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord in his human nature extends itself particularly in the Eucharist.
The Christmas morning celebrations were also attended by many pilgrims who filled the square and the sanctuary. At the Shepherds Field there was a great gathering of the Filippino community living in the Holy Land. Father Angelo Ison, a Franciscan born in the Philippines, and responsible for the pastoral work with the faithful coming from this country, celebrated the Eucharist for over 1700 Filippinos. This community of immigrants shows great interest in its Christian duties and is very active in participating in the liturgy. Later on, another group of over a thousand faithful, also coming from the Philippines, filled the church of Saint Catherine for the celebration of the Eucharist, which was also presided by Father Angelo.
After the Mass of the Filippinos it was the turn of a community of Romanians who came to Mass in the same Franciscan church. Father Christian Vacaru is the chaplain of the Romanian community living in the Holy Land. The Eucharist was presided by the Bishop of Iasi, Mons Petru Gherghel, who had also concelebrated at the Midnight Mass with the Patriarch. In this way the church of Saint Catherine witnessed the diversity of musical and linguistic expressions which are sign of the unity of the Catholic Church.
Later on the Franciscan community of Bethlehem, together with the Guardian, Father Justos Artaraz and the parish priest Father Amjad Sabbara, left on a pilgrimage to the Shepherds Field at Beit Sahur in order to commemorate on the very spot the annunciation of the Angels to the shepherds regarding the Birth of Our Saviour. The community first stopped for some moments at the sanctuary of the Greek Orthodox (Poimnion), where the faithful sang the litanies and listened to the reading of the Gospel of Luke 2,8-14. The same celebration was repeated at the Franciscan Sanctuary (Siyar el Ghanam).
At about 4 p.m. the liturgical services of the Nativity of the Lord came to an end, in the midst of the rain and the cold of a wintry day, which reminded us of the day of the Nativity of the Lord when all hearts were enkindled to the love of God.

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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