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Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa and Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Service of Charity, arrived in Bethlehem, on the West Bank, Dec. 24 to mark Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa and Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Service of Charity, arrived in Bethlehem, on the West Bank, Dec. 24 to mark Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

‘Jesus, you take over,’ papal envoy cried out in Bethlehem amid wartime Christmas celebrations

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal envoy, spent Christmas with Christians in the Holy Land

Christmas in Bethlehem was celebratory but not as festive as usual this year, given the outbreak of war in the Holy Land two-and-a-half months ago. Visiting for Christmas, the papal envoy, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, prefect of Vatican Dicastery for the Service of Charity, assisted the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in the wartime celebration amid the “helplessness” of not being able to ease the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Cardinal Krajewski was in the Holy Land as part of a “journey of closeness” with Christians in the region.

On Dec. 24, Latin Patriarch Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa arrived in Bethlehem on the West Bank with Cardinal Krajewski, where they were escorted by Israeli police to the border of the West Bank, and then by Palestinian police.

At the solemn celebration of early Christmas Mass on Dec. 24, Cardinal Krajewski said that 2,000 people filled the Church of the Nativity. Despite hard times for the Holy Land, “people were all beautifully, festively dressed,” he said.

“For too many days, we have all been caught up in the sad and painful feeling that there is no room this year for the joy and peace that the angels announced to the shepherds of Bethlehem in this Holy Night, not far from here,” Cardinal Pizzaballa said during the homily.

“At this moment, our thoughts cannot be far from those who have lost everything in this war, including their closest loved ones, and who are now displaced, alone and paralyzed by their grief,” he said.

“My thoughts go, without distinction, to all who are affected by this war, in Palestine and Israel and the whole region. I am especially close to those who are in mourning and weeping and waiting for a concrete gesture of closeness and care. Tonight, I remember the hostages kidnapped from their families, as I remember the people who languish in prisons without having had the right to a trial,” Cardinal Pizzaballa said.

Pope Francis said in his Christmas message Dec. 25 that children dying in wars, including in Gaza, are the “little Jesuses of today.” He said that Israeli strikes there were reaping an “appalling harvest” of innocent civilians.

In the Christmas Day “urbi et orbi” (to the city and world) address, the pontiff also called the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants “abominable” and appealed for the release of around 100 hostages still being held in Gaza.

Cardinal Krajewski said he was unable to reach Holy Family Parish in Gaza City by phone on Christmas Eve, but he and the patriarch, met 20 people who have loved ones trapped in the Gaza Strip. He assured Christians in Bethlehem that “the Holy Father is with them,” in their suffering, and “expressed his closeness.”

Cardinal Krajewski said the Church feels “helpless” watching the situation in Gaza.

“We are able to organize a huge amount of aid in a few minutes and send everything to this place of great tragedy. But it is humanly impossible at the moment,” he said. “That’s why prayer is so necessary today. Jesus, you take over! We do not have such opportunities, we do not have access to Gaza. We are simply helpless.”

Still, the cardinal added, “there is hope, and we do not lose hope.”

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