ASIA/MIDDLE EAST - Advent in times of war: Christian communities forego celebrations and lighting

Saturday, 9 December 2023 advent   christmas   area crisis   wars

Bethlehem (Agenzia Fides) - For many Christian communities in the countries of the Middle East, the time approaching Christmas is marked by the pain and and fear of the violence that has broken out again in the Holy Land. There are now increasing external signs that while many baptized people are waiting this year for the birth of Jesus who brings the light, there is no room for decorations and lighting in a dark world wounded by evil. Since November, the churches and communities of Bethlehem and Ramallah have announced that, in solidarity with the people of the Gaza Strip, they will be canceling all moments of gathering that normally precede and accompany the Christmas season. The patriarchs and church leaders in Jerusalem have asked the ecclesiastical communities to celebrate the liturgical celebrations without accompanying them with feasts and celebrations while collecting donations for the people of Gaza. Munther Ishaq, a Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem, placed a nativity scene in his church amid rubble, broken branches and debris, littered with icons and candles, to symbolize the devastation caused by the bombings in Gaza. "The message is that God is with us even in this pain," Munther Ishaq told the Turkish news agency Anadolu.

In a letter signed on Tuesday, December 5, Bishop Hanna Jallouf, a Franciscan priest of the Custody of the Holy Land who recently took office as Vicar Apostolic in Aleppo, called on priests, monks and religious sisters of the Church in Syria: "In solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip, restrict Christmas and New Year celebrations in churches, parishes and monasteries." In the letter, published by the website "", the bishop writes: "In view of the current situation that our country is going through in general, and in solidarity with the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian people who have supported us during the war and earthquake, I ask that Christmas and New Year celebrations be limited to our churches, monasteries and parishes". The letter concludes with a prayer that the baby Jesus may "fill your hearts and families with peace, harmony and tranquility. I wish everyone a blessed, happy New Year. O Son of the Manger, pray for us". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 9/12/2023)