From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3244 The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Tue, 24 Dec 2002 00:23:56 -0000

ACNS 3244     |     MIDDLE EAST     |	  23 DECEMBER 2002

The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem Christmas Message 2002

"Stand your ground with truth buckled round your waist and integrity for a
breastplate, wearing on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of
peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put
out the burning arrows of the evil one." (Eph 6: 14-16)

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Once more we turn our thoughts and prayers to the gift that God gave us His
Eternal Word in the Person of His Only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born in
Bethlehem. Christmas comes again amidst difficulties and sufferings:
military occupation, curfew, painful daily life together with growing hatred
in the hearts. Hope for a better future seems to be lost. However, the
message of Christmas remains one of hope, love, and peace as well as of
justice, freedom and security. This message must be announced and proclaimed
to everyone everywhere; in our churches, in our homes - especially to our
children and young people - in our streets and even in the souls of the
soldiers and the fighters.

Christmas comes again in painful days. Yet in spite of everything, sisters
and brothers, we proclaim that the feast is an opportunity to renew our
courage and our patience in this time of trial. It is an occasion for
spiritual and external joy which must influence all aspects of your life.
Therefore resist all feelings of death and discouragement; fill your hearts
and homes with the joy of Christmas. Indeed, joy and courage are the best
ways to challenge and resist the death and oppression which are imposed upon
you. So with the Apostle Paul we tell you: "Always be joyful; pray
constantly; and for all things give thanks Stand your ground with truth
buckled round your waist and integrity for a breastplate, always carrying
the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of
the evil one." (1Thes 5,16; Eph 6: 14-16)

Bethlehem has often been under siege during the past two years and for
several weeks the curfew has prevented any normal life there. Bethlehem is a
holy city, the city of the nativity of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus
Christ. More than this it is holy for the entire Christian world. Therefore
it should be declared a sacred place, in which war will not be allowed, and
all fighting and military action absolutely forbidden.

So then We appeal to the Palestinian and Israeli Leaders, as well as to the
International Community to put an end to the tragedy of the Holy Land. Let
all fighting cease. Let due respect be restored for the life and dignity of
all human beings in this Land. Give back to Bethlehem its character of
holiness and let every one accept responsibility to build justice and peace.

Furthermore, We appeal to our Churches all over the world. Whilst We remain
grateful to you for your fraternal solidarity already manifested to us in
many ways; still there is more to be done. The evil of injustice and war
must be uprooted. We are counting on you to do more for this Holy Land and
all its inhabitants, Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Moslems
so that there will be an end to all forms of violence and bloodshed.. Do not
abandon the Holy Land. Do not be afraid of involvement in our complicated
situation. Help us to be reconciled as we recover justice and peace.

The conflict around us must come to an end so that human lives can be
re-built and all of us directed towards love rather than hatred. As we
commemorate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ we are reminded that He came
to give the supreme gift of life together with light to illuminate an
otherwise darkened world. We are conscious of the pain and suffering of
people around us which we share together and seek forgiveness for all
involved. We ask God's guidance and strength for everyone to build together
a better world - the world He intended when He gave us his Son that very
first Christmas in Bethlehem. With this in mind we pray you may know God's
joy and peace in your hearts and homes as Christmas dawns. God bless you

The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, 20 December 2002

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