Patriarchs, Church leaders urge Holy Land’s Christians to ‘stand strong’ In Advent message

Patriarchs, Church leaders urge Holy Land’s Christians to ‘stand strong’ In Advent message

Christmas in Bethlehem and the Holy Land this year will be one of solemnity, prayer and fasting as the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem called upon the faithful to forgo any “unnecessarily festive activities” during the Christmas season this year and to “stand strong” with those facing the afflictions of war, focusing more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas.

“Since the start of the war, there has been an atmosphere of sadness and pain. Thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, have died or suffered serious injuries,” they said in a Nov. 10 statement on the “Celebration of Advent and Christmas in the Midst of the War.”

Advent this year begins Dec. 3.

“Many more grieve over the loss of their homes, their loved ones, or the uncertain fate of those dear to them. Throughout the region, even more have lost their work and are suffering from serious economic challenges,” the statement said.

Israel launched a military assault on Hamas after Hamas terrorists from Gaza breached a security fence on the southern border with Israel Oct. 7. Thousands of heavily armed terrorists infiltrated the border and attacked some 22 civilian agricultural communities and cities inside Israel. Israel estimated the death toll of the attack to about 1,200 people. Almost 240 people, including babies and elderly, were kidnapped into Gaza.

Israel has continued with its military incursion against Hamas targets both on land and by air.

The Church leaders in their statement said that though the sacred Advent season is normally one of joy and anticipation in preparation for the celebration of Christmas including religious services as well as colorful public festivities, “these are not normal times.”

“We call upon our congregations to stand strong with those facing such afflictions by this year foregoing any unnecessarily festive activities,” the Church leaders said. “We likewise encourage our priests and the faithful to focus more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas in their pastoral activities and liturgical celebrations during this period, with all the focus directed at holding in our thoughts our brothers and sisters affected by this war and its consequences, and with fervent prayers for a just and lasting peace for our beloved Holy Land.”

They also invited the faithful to “advocate, pray and contribute generously” as they are able for the relief of victims of the war and the needy.

“In these ways, we believe, we will be standing in support of those continuing to suffer – just as Christ did with us in his Incarnation, in order that all of God’s children might receive the hope of a New Jerusalem in the presence of the Almighty, where ‘death shall be no more, neither mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away’ (Revelation 21:4),” they wrote in their statement.

Meanwhile, bishops around the globe joined prayers for peace in the Holy Land and condemned the violence.