During the beginning of this year, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa multiplies his visits, not only to the religious communities, but also to the parishes of the diocese, who, despite the absence of pilgrims, were nevertheless able to celebrate the Christmas holidays in almost normal conditions, unlike last year.
Such visits are an opportunity to show diocesan solidarity and to encourage people to keep hope alive despite the very difficult human and economic situations that many are experiencing. During each of his visits, the Patriarch also invites all those present to initiate the steps proposed for the Synod, opened locally on 30 October at the Shrine of Deir Rafat.
On Friday, January 7, accompanied by Bishop William Shomali, Vicar General for Jerusalem and Palestine, Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Vicar General Emeritus, Fr. Davide Meli, Chancellor of the Patriarchate, Fr. Aziz Halaweh and Fr. Elias Tabban, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem visited the cloistered Carmelite nuns of Haifa, who are painfully living their double isolation from the world in this period of pandemic.
They then congratulated Fr. Johnny Abou Khalil on his appointment as Director of the St Charles Borromeo Pastoral Centre in Haifa, a guest house surrounded by a vast and beautiful garden, which will also become a center for theological training, dedicated to catechists and lay people in charge of youth. Fr. Rafic Nahra, the new Latin patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and some priests from the Latin parishes of the region, Frs. Abdo Abdo, Elis Kurzum, Nidhal Kanzua, Raed Abu-Sahlieh, as well as Frs. Kuprianos, Paco and Ramez Twal, parish vicars, also joined them for the occasion. Together, they visited and blessed the renewed part of the center before sharing a fraternal agape of congratulations and good wishes with other friends and relatives.
The following day, the Patriarch went to Ein Arik to present his greetings and congratulate Fr. Firas Abedrabbo, who has recently been appointed parish vicar there and has just taken up permanent residence. H.B. Pizzaballa was accompanied by a delegation of priests from the Patriarchate: Frs. Aziz Halaweh, Elias Tabban and Davide Meli, as well as Bishop William Shomali and Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo.
The delegation was then received by the monastic community of the Little Family of the Annunciation, a congregation founded by the Italian lawyer and politician Giuseppe Dossetti, who became a religious in 1956. Composed of brothers and sisters we can easily identify thanks to their beige and brown habit, the community of Ein Arik hosts Father Firas in the presbytery reserved for the brothers, in a small area recently fitted out and blessed by the Patriarch.
After a meal shared at the Christian Youth Parish Center, part of the Patriarchal delegation visited the family of Fr. Aziz Halaweh, while noting the good development of the small village of Ein Arik.
In the afternoon, accompanied by the Frs. Manoel Musallam and Louis Hazboun, the parish priest of Birzeit, along with some Christian and Muslim inhabitants of the region, part of the patriarchal delegation went to the village of Aqraba, in the region of Nablus, which was recently bereaved by a road accident that caused the death of eight teenagers. Taking advantage of school holidays to earn some money for their families, these young people, aged 14 to 17, were returning from their day's work when their van, driven by a driver who is currently hospitalized, was hit by a truck.
A huge crowd came to surround the families so cruelly struck, made of both Christians and Muslims, united in this tragedy that cannot leave anyone indifferent. Fr. Manoel, the well-known "Parish Priest of Gaza", spoke on behalf of the Patriarchate to express his condolences to the families, and very moved, paid tribute to the testimonies of solidarity and affection received by the families: a sign that God is sending us to show us His tenderness and His presence at our side in these terrible hours.