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A pilgrim lights a candle in the grotto of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, in 2016 (OSV News/Debbie Hill)

Public Christmas celebrations that are usually an integral part of Advent and Christmas in the Holy Land will be absent this year not only in Gaza, but in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Amman, as well. Source: National Catholic Register.

At a time when the Hamas-Israel war is claiming lives and causing widespread displacement, leaders of the various Holy Land churches have asked their communities to forgo public Christmas festivities. 

The solidarity initiative began on November 5 in Jordan, where leaders of the country’s Council of Churches asked local Christians to celebrate Christmas at home and in church through prayer.

Soon afterward, the patriarchs and heads of the churches in Jerusalem issued a similar statement calling for Palestinian and other Holy Land Christians to focus on the spiritual aspects of Christmas and to pray for the war’s victims and those in dire need.

“Thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, have died or suffered serious injuries. Many more grieve over the loss of their homes, their loved ones, or the uncertain fate of those dear to them. Yet despite our repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence, the war continues,” the church leaders said.

For the Christians of Gaza, Christmas will be very, very quiet, but more meaningful than ever, according to Institute of the Incarnate Word Father Gabriel Romanelli, pastor of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza.

“It is truly a tough time,” Fr Romanelli said during an interview with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

“It is important, of course, not to have big celebrations” for Christmas, he said. “It is a sign of solidarity and respect to those who have lost loved ones, to those who are wounded.”

While both joy and food are scarce in Gaza, it is more important than ever to pray, Fr Romanelli said. “We started to think spiritually. The birth of Jesus is at the centre of our celebrations. So we will hold different spiritual activities for our parishioners, to help prepare spiritually for Jesus to be born in our hearts and lives.”


‘It Is Truly a Tough Time’: Holy Land Christians Endure Hardships This Christmas (By Michele Chabin, National Catholic Register)


Priest: Gaza Christians have suffered much but aren’t losing hope (OSV News)