The Municipality of Bethlehem, in the Holy Land, has suspended Christmas celebrations and removed the light decorations in Nativity Square and other areas of the town. The colored lights in front of the Nativity Basilica in Bethlehem have also been removed because of the war.
In a Statement on November 10, the Patriarchs of the Churches in Jerusalem asked the faithful for prayers “to remain firm with those faced with afflictions this year, giving up any unnecessary festive activity, focusing ourselves more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, keeping in our thoughts our brothers and sisters affected by this war and its consequences, and with fervent prayers for a just and lasting peace in our beloved Holy Land.”
Hanna Hanania, outgoing mayor of Bethlehem, a small town in the Palestinian West Bank, said to EWTN agency in English that, “like any other Palestinian city, Bethlehem is in mourning and sad.” “We cannot celebrate while we are in this situation,” referring to the Israel-Hamas war.
Hanania’s statement is added to that of the Holy Land’s Churches, suggesting that the celebrations take the nature of prayer to God, to “have peace in the land of peace.”
The rules of the existing , which regulate access to the holy sites — in force since the time of the Ottoman Empire –, will be respected. Hence, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, will arrive on Christmas Eve, December 24, and Father Francis Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, will make his solemn entrance in Bethlehem on the day of the festivity.
The procession on the Street of Stars, which, according to tradition, marks the route of the Wise Men, will be celebrated without music and with a reduced presence of people.
Hanania commented, “We welcome Christmas with sadness, pain and suffering. Parents are ashamed to buy gifts for their children, when many families are unable to satisfy their basic needs.”
The Nativity Basilica is deserted. Rare are the pilgrims in the Nativity Grotto. There are Palestinians trapped by the war in Bethlehem, where they arrived to receive medical treatment or for commercial reasons. The conflict between Israel and Hamas wounds the life of the citizens of both countries, calling for exterior moderation and a strong request for peace in the heart.