A Christmas full of peace and communion: these were the wishes of the Churches of Jerusalem to the Custos of the Holy Land during the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. On December 29, one by one, the representatives of the various churches visited the Custody. They were welcomed by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, the Custodial Vicar, Fr. Dobromir Jastzal, and Br. David Grenier, Secretary of the Custody. After several official speeches, in a friendly and fraternal atmosphere, Christmas carols were sung by the friars and sweets and refreshments were shared by all.
The day began with representatives of the Greek-Orthodox Church and with Patriarch Theophilus. After wishing everyone a merry Christmas, they said to Fr. Francis Patton: “We take this opportunity to once again congratulate you on your election and to reaffirm our good relations and cooperation between our two fraternities.” The Custos, on his part, recalled, as did the Patriarch, the project that both Churches supported: “I wish to express feelings of gratitude for the fraternal relationship that has allowed us to cooperate in the restoration of the Holy Edicule in Jerusalem and the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.”
Along with them, there were also representatives of the Syriac Orthodox Church: “We have come to reciprocate our good wishes as brothers. Hopefully this will be a year of peace.” The Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton, took the opportunity to affirm: “I wish to tell our Coptic brothers that we all prayed for those who were killed and injured recently at the cathedral in Cairo and we wish to once again express our solidarity and closeness to the Coptic Church. We also want to express our solidarity and closeness to the brothers of the Syriac Church in Jerusalem; we are praying for peace every day, particularly in Syria.”
With the Kawas leading the way, a group of friars from the Custody of the Holy Land then reached the headquarters of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church. The patriarchal vicar greeted the Franciscans in a large hall. “I am happy about your Franciscan spirituality. With Jesus Christ, you Franciscans always show humility. Thank you for your life of humility, poverty and love of Christ,” said the vicar, giving greetings on behalf of the Patriarch, who at that time was in Egypt, as is customary for the holidays.
Even the representatives of the Ethiopian Church met with the Custos of the Holy Land in the afternoon, saying: “This is a spiritual tradition that has been repeated for years. We wish you peace and prosperity.”
Lastly, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, visited the Custody, returning the greetings received by the Franciscan friars on December 16. “It is a bit strange indeed…” Pizzabella said at the beginning, causing the friars to burst into laughter, since he had been serving for twelve years as Custos of the Holy Land and he is now in a different role. On a more serious note, he recalled: “This is an opportunity to thank you for the service you do in the Holy Places.” Afterwards, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa visited the sick at Saint Savior’s infirmary, wishing everyone a merry Christmas.