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Franciscan Friary,
St.Francis Str.1,





Date: 15.6.2005
Source: Custody of The Holy Land

On 6 June the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, celebrated his 50th anniversary of priesthood. For the occasion he presided over a solemn Mass in the co-cathedral church at the Latin Patriarchate. Mgr. Kamal Baktish, Auxiliary Bishop, also celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthodd together with the Patriarch.

Various Catholic leaders, including those from oriential rites, were invited and took part in the celebration. Among them there was the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. At the celebration some representatives of the Protestant communities also took part. The Mass was concelebrated by numerous priests, with the presence of numerous local Christians as well as of the civil authorities.

Before the homily, Mgr. Gianfranco Gallone, secretary of the Apostolic Delegate, read the message of congratulations sent by the Holy Father.

The singing during Mass was done by the "schola cantorum" of the Custody of the Holy Land, with the organ accompanyment of Fr. Armando Pierucci.

Homily of His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch

1. "Praise the Lord for he is good" (Ps 136/136,1). "I will praise the Lord all my life" (Ps 145/146, 2). Together with my brother bishop monsignor Kamal BATHISH, I will praise the Lord in this day and I will thank him through this prayerful celebration which places us in front of Him and unites us to all of you, my brothers and sisters.
After fifty years of priestly ministry, we thank God for all the graces He has bestowed upon us during all these years. We thank him for every grace which He gave through our priestly ministry. We thank Him and we ask Him forgiveness for every guilt and failing in the carrying out of the ministry which has been entrusted into our hands. We thank the Holy Father BENEDICT XVI for his message, for his blessing and for his prayer which accompanies
us in this day. We also pray for him so that the Lord will be his strength in his mission as shepherd of the whole Church (Ps 93/93,17).

2. We thank the leaders of the Churches present in this Holy City, catholic, orthodox, oriental orthodox, and evangelical, for their presence here among us today, and also for the fraternal journey which permits us to live together and is our source of strength and courage in the midst of the difficult journey of service in this Holy Land.

We thank the Lord for the gift of inter-religious dialogue, which has been made possible and has united us, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, in moments of grace.
I thank their Excellencies the Consuls General of this Holy City, for the very important contribution and for their support towards the issue of justice and peace in this land.

We thank our clergy of the Latin Patriarchate, the vicars general and the auxiliary bishops - in a special way I would like to mention His Grace Mgr. Jean-Baptiste GOURION, who is ill at this moment, and for whom we pray God so that He will give him the grace of healing. I thank all our priests, the members and pastors of the Jewish-speaking community, all the religious men and women, in the first place the Custody of the Holy Land.

I want to thank all the faithful who share with us the burden of our ministry, the schools, the teachers, the cathechists, the Catholic Pastoral Committee, the social institutions, the charitable institutions, in the first place the Caritas of Jerusalem and of Joran, and all the institutions of the national and international Church.

I thank all the members of our parishes and all those whom we serve, for having welcomed our service. I thank all those who have shown opposition to our ministry. Their opposition has helped us to make an examination of conscience and to discern in a better way the will of God for us and for them. Last but not least, I thank our relatives and all our friends, for their friendship and love.

3. Fifty years of priesthood are an occasion to say thank you to our parishes for the witness of faith which has sustained the discernment process of their members chosen for the priesthood. We effectively thank God for the priestly vocations which are still numerous in various parishes. We ask these parish communities to persevere in faith and in generosity, because the Church and society need them very much.

Today is also an occasion to say to those parishes who still have not given fruits of vocations in the priesthood or consecrated life, and who are aware of their obligations towards the Church and society, that they need persons who are consecrated to the service of their brothers and sisters.

4. In our prayer on the occasion of our Jubilee, we think about the various sectors of our ministry: first of all, we think of the renewal and growth in faith of our diocese. In 1993 we began the Synod together with the Catholic Churches of the Holy Land. We need to continue along this journey. The pastoral plan which has been the fruit of this work will guide us in the next step of our diocescan life.

We are certainly sent out to our brothers, but also to all our society.
Nobody is a stranger to us. Jews, Muslims, Durse and all Christians, all are objects of our love and care, as they are objects of the love and care of God. Let all our brothers and sisters who have the Christian faith know that they are a gift for themselves and for all society.

They are to educate the faithful in the Christian faith, to form them in prayer, to invite them to sustain their own spiritual life with those practices which nourish our faith: the sacraments, the Sunday Mass, the devotions, the rosary, etc. All these practices become authentic if the faithful make of their prayer a means in order to be more present in society.

Prayer has to be the invitation to take an active part in all spheres of public life. The believer prays for everybody, for the poor, for the rich, for the strong and for the weak, for those who are members of his or her religion, and for those to belong to other religions: in fact, through our prayer and humble contribution, we are invited to make of our society the house of God in which justice and love can dwell. Prayer does not isolate the faithful from society. Our vision of faith becomes our vision of the world through prayer. On the contrary, prayer places us in the centre of the world, it obliges us to take part in the unfolding of its drama, of its sorrows and of its joys.

5. We need to go ever more deeper in the two dimensions of our Church of Jerusalem: the local and the universal dimension. The local dimension is made up of our diocesan life, of our prayers, of our adoration and ability to gather all the Churches in our places, which are truly the places of their pilgrimage. For this reason the Church of Jerusalem also has a universal dimension:
for every Christian it is the place of one's roots, the Mother Church where everything has began. From this springs the care of the all the Churches towards our Church and our land. We believers who live around the holy places of our faith must be more aware of the universal dimension of our Church.

In the same way all those who have chosen to accompany our faith here, in the land of their roots, the religious men and women, those who come to Jerusalem in search of God, must always be more aware of the local dimension of our Church, in such a way that nobody will feel a stranger in ths same house of God and that all may become members of the "family of God" (Ef 2,19).

It is this sense of openness to all the human reality of our society which invites us to work in favour of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. A ministry in the Holy Land, where thirteen Churches and three religions thrive together, every prayer uttered by each and every one of the faithful, by each and every priest and bishop, must place in front of the Lord all the faithful of all the Churches and all the believers of the three religions: we are all children of God, and we all take part of the fruits of our prayer.

6. 6. Finally, a Christian life in the Holy Land and the ministry of the bishop, of the priest, of every kind of religious life, must contribute through prayer to become ever more responsibile of the drama of this land. Along many centuries, because of its sanctity, Jerusalem has been a centre of journeying of those who wanted to conquer it, a place where different political powers have come one after another. For more than a century now we have been assisting in the actual conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We still live in a land which is full of fear, of oppression, of hatred and of death.
Our duty is certainly that of not hoding on any longer to fear, and not to keep silent in front of oppression, hatred and death. Our duty does not consist in closing our eyes in front of the complexity of human events which allow for the spreading of death and hatred.
On the contrary we are invited to sustain life and love. It is for this reason that we raise our voice to defend those who are oppressed and to invite oppressors to free themselves of their sense of oppression. In every instance we are invited to see the image of God in every human person present on both sides of the conflict. Reconciliation is a primary duty of the Church, as is the appeal to end every form of oppression and injustice. Saint Paul tells us: "God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5,18). We have to put an end to the humiliation of the human person, and work towards the good of the human person, by ending all insecurity and fear.

Fifty years of priesthood have also convinced us regarding all this. They have convinced us to pray, to raise up our voices, to act with all our good will, for the security of the Israelis, for the ending of the occupation of the Palestinian people, for the true freedom of everybody, so that all walls will fall down, so that all prisoners will be set free, so that the drama of the refugees will come to an end, so that Jerusalem will regain its status of a Holy City, so that sincerity will prevail in the discussions which are taking place, and so that the two peoples of this land and the believers of the three religions can enjoy full human dignity. For all this we pray in this day of the Jubilee of our priesthood.

7. My brothers and sisters, we have gathered to thank God. We are gathered to renew our strength and continue in our journey towrds the Lord and in our ministry for the good of all and in favour of you all. Continue to pray for us so that we may make God ever more present among all men and women of this Land, which He chose in order to come and live among them. Amen.

+ Michel SABBAH, Patriarch

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