Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا abouna.org
On March 18, 2023, in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, presided at a Holy Mass to mark the feast of Saint Joseph and the 90th birthday of Mgr. Michel Sabbah, Patriarch emeritus.
Often called the "Patriarch and voice of the people", Mgr. Sabbah served as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1987 to 2008, as the first non-Italian and Arab Palestinian to hold this position in over five centuries. Born in Nazareth, he was ordained a priest in 1955, choosing to answer God's call and to serve the Church despite the difficult times the country was then facing. Before becoming Latin Patriarch, he studied in Beirut and Paris and worked as director of the Latin Patriarchate schools and then as a teacher in Djibouti. He is known for his work for peace in the Holy Land and the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has served as president of Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement, as founder of the Society of Saint Yves, and as chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission.
"Before being a Patriarch, before being a bishop, Mgr Sabbah was a priest. And he remained so during all his life," said Patriarch Pizzaballa during his homily. "The prayers, the liturgy, the sacraments, and most importantly, Jesus-Christ, were always part of his identity. And he was a pastor who loved his people, and who became their voice. A voice of truth that, in the midst of a very tormented and complicated political context, brought hope and unity to the hearts of the people," he added, highlighting Mgr Sabbah's achievements during his time as Latin Patriarch.
At the end of the Mass, Mgr. Sabbah thanked all the priests and faithful who attended the celebration urging them to be true Christians and to love as Jesus Christ himself loved. "In your communities, be one mind, one soul and one spirit; be a united family that leaves no one behind. And in society, be an example of Christ by loving others, no matter who they are, for a Christian's love is a love for all mankind." He then received gifts from the respective representatives of the Council of Churches and the Custos, in appreciation of his work for Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
During the reception that followed the liturgical celebration, the faithful were able to view a short video tracing the life of Mgr Sabbah, before he and Patriarch Pizzaballa cut together his birthday cake, in the presence of his family.