“It’s as if you are welcoming your father in your home. You have a home, and your father is coming to support you,” Fr. Ibrahim Shomali told CNA May 25.
“God is visiting you in his person and honoring him, honoring Jesus with Mass celebrated by the Pope with these songs that are very special for me, and especially with Pope Francis who is the Pope of the poor and the needy people.”
Fr. Shomali is a priest of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and oversees a parish in town of Beit Jala, which lays close to Bethlehem.
Explaining how he was asked by the Latin patriarchy to lead the choir for the papal Mass, which took place earlier this morning in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, Fr. Shomali noted that the group of 120 was composed of five different groups coming from surrounding areas.
Aged between 13 to almost 80, the members are all part of local communities in Palestine, most hailing from Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
In order to compliment the fact that Pope Francis celebrated Mass using the liturgy of Christmas Day in honor of the city of Jesus’ birth, the choir sang mostly Christmas songs the priest observed, “because we are in Bethlehem, and in Bethlehem every day is Christmas.”
Referring to how Pope Francis is often characterized by his joyful spirit, Fr. Shomali stated that the hymns, such as “Gloria in Excelcis Deo” and “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him,” suit the pontiff because “Christmas is always joy.”
“And joy must be built on justice. And we need justice for this Holy Land. This is what we are asking the Pope” he stated, adding that he has great hope for the pontiff’s visit.
“He was great yesterday in Jordan and he will be more than great today in Palestine.”
Among the 120 choir members who sang for Pope Francis today was Kasandra, 17, who comes from the town of Beit Jala.
Revealing how it was the first time she had sung in an event of such importance, the youth stated that “this is my first time and I am proud of myself. “
“It’s an honor to be here in this time. I think it’s good, very good” she explained, saying that despite being part of such a diverse group of people and ages “you are like one person, you are one person, one choir.”
“To sing for Pope Francis is very important. You feel like an important person and that your voice will reach to the whole world.”
Expressing her hope that the Pope would like their music, Kasandra said that “I think he will be happy from this side because we are singing from the bottom of our heart.”
Pope Francis traveled to Bethlehem today to celebrate Mass for local Palestinians as part of his May 24 – 26 pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Before entering the city’s Manger Square where he celebrated Mass, the pontiff made an unscheduled stop to pray in silence before the wall dividing Palestine and Israel.
The director of the choir who sang during Pope Francis’ Mass in Bethlehem earlier today expressed that to sing for the pontiff in his country is like receiving your father into your home.
Mass, Christmas, Bethlehem, Pope Francis in Holy Land