Amidst the suffering caused by the conflict in the Gaza Strip but with the hope of a peace accord soon being reached, Christians in Bethlehem celebrated the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord at the Basilica of the Nativity.
According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the Custodian of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzabella, who walked from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, was greeted during his journey by Palestinians and Israelis, but this time in silence. “Even the scouts did not organize their procession as a sign of respect for the city of Gaza, which has been under continuous attack for the past several days,” the newspaper reported.
After the Te Deum, the pastor of the Church of St. Catherine, Franciscan Father Samuel Fahim, told parishioners, “What is happening in these days in our region is very sad and allows us to experience what is written in the Gospel, when so many innocent children are massacred. But as Jesus was with them during those times, He is here today too. For this reason we return to Him, imploring that He transform our sadness into joy, war into peace. And we want to live the feast of the Epiphany with this spirit,” he said.
LOR also reported that despite the economic crisis, pilgrims continue to come to the Holy Land, new accommodations are being built to welcome them. Restoration work also continues at Mount Tabor, Gethsemane and Nazareth.
Catholic News Agency has teamed up with the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land to launch an initiative called the Memorial Hall Project. The aim of the project is help sustain a Christian presence at the many sites of the Holy Land so that Christians can continue to enjoy these spiritual treasures for years to come. More information can be found at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland/