Thousands Gather for Mass in Bethlehem. By Associated Press. "A packed house at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Tuesday night as Archbishop Fouad Twal led the midnight mass …" The Celtic Alleluia is about 0:09 seconds in.
According to AP reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh, Palestinian Authority dignitaries greeted Twal at the entrance to Bethlehem, probably the same checkpoint we went through on the way to Jerusalem. "His motorcade crawled through the town's narrow streets as he stopped to shake hands and greet the throngs of visitors," Daraghmeh said. "It took him nearly 90 minutes to make the short trip to celebrate Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity compound."
Hundreds of people packed the Church of the Nativity compound for the service in St. Catherine's, the 19th-century Catholic church adjacent to the sixth-century Greek Orthodox basilica. Among them: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. Daraghmeh quoted at length from the homily:
"The message of Christmas is a message of peace, love and brotherhood. We have to be brothers with each other," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, as he arrived in town.
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In his homily, Twal addressed Abbas, telling the president he prays for a "just and equitable solution" for the Palestinians. Twal, himself a Palestinian, also expressed sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, particularly families with relatives imprisoned by Israel or those who have suffered as a result of the conflict with Israel.
"The world is living through a long night of wars, destruction, fear, hate, racism and, at the present time, cold and snow," he said. Lamenting strife in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, he also urged worshippers "not to forget our own problems here: the prisoners and their families who hope for their release, the poor who have lost their land and their homes demolished, families waiting to be reunited, those out of work and all who suffer from the economic crisis."
Yet Twal called on people not to despair. "We are invited to be optimistic and to renew our faith that this land, home of the three monotheistic religions, will one day become a haven of peace for all people," he said.
"Oh Holy Child, God of goodness and mercy, look with kindness on the Holy Land and on our people who live in Palestine, in Israel, in Jordan and all the Middle East. Grant them the gift of reconciliation so that they may all be brothers — sons of one God," he said.
Christmas midnight mass in Bethlehem 2013: Gloria. Longer video posted today by the Magnificat Institute, School of Music, Monastery of Saint Saviour, New Gate, Old City, P.O.Box 186, Jerusalem 91001. It was established in 1995 by decision of the Chapter of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Published on Dec 25, 2013 Featuring: H. E. Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Latins, Mr. Mahmud Abbas, Palestinian President, Magnificat Custody and Yasmeen Choir, Mrs. Hania Sabbara, director, Fr. Armando Pierucci, organist and composer.