It is Christmas time, we joyfully celebrate it, despite the challenges ahead. It makes me happy to see our children singing Christmas carols, with our people celebrating in the centers of the Palestinian cities, Christians and Muslims lighting the Christmas trees and enjoying the Christmas parades.
These celebrations remind us of the message of the birth and march of Jesus, peace be upon him, in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which are a source of cultural and spiritual inspiration, and radiant civilization principles of human dignity, justice and tolerance.
Accordingly, the Arab Ministers of Culture chose the city of Bethlehem to be the capital of Arab culture for the year 2020. This coincides with the completion of more than five years of rehabilitation and restoration work at the Church of the Nativity in our dear city. For the first time in 600 years, the Church’s ancient mosaics and columns have been restored to their original glory, in addition to the comprehensive restoration work.
I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Churches of the Holy Land that have given me the responsibility of overseeing the rehabilitation and restoration of the Church of the Nativity, which we have proudly accomplished.
On these blessed days, I recall the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and his prayers for peace, and the removal of walls.
I am also pleased to extend my sincere appreciation, on behalf of the Palestinian people, and on my own behalf, to His Holiness Pope Francis for his provision of the relic of the manger of Christ for permanent placement in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Despite the suffering, injustice and oppression due to the bitter Israeli military occupation of our land and our Christian and Islamic sanctities, we are determined to celebrate the glorious Christmas and New Year, with a message of joy and peace to the rest of the world, and we will continue our peaceful struggle for justice, dignity, freedom and statehood for our people to live in peace on their land, and the land of their ancestors.
It is my pleasure, like every year, to participate in the midnight mass with our people in the Church of the Nativity, and millions of believers around the world, sharing our hope that 2020 will be the year of ending the occupation and achieving the independence of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, to live side by side with all our neighbors in peace and security.
I would like to praise the work implemented by the Presidential Higher Committee of Churches’ Affairs to strengthen the Christian presence in the State of Palestine, despite all the challenges.
Joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year