World Awaits Hope and Peace, Says Custos

Writes Christmas Message From Holy Land

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JERUSALEM, DEC. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The world will be looking toward Bethlehem this Christmas, longing for the hope and peace that stirs "the very depths of the soul," says the Custos of the Holy Land.

Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa said this in a statement for Christmas published Monday. "We, who have the grace of living in the Holy Land," he said, "once again, like every year, we are celebrating Christmas with our hearts touched by a grace that continues to surprise us. It is as though this celebration wants to challenge our inner great age, so that once again the limpid courage of childhood, when we believed that all good is possible, is reborn in us."

The Custos continued: "The urgency for peace suffocates our hearts, despite the bitterness of the news, and turns us into beggars for peace. Looking at the grotto of Bethlehem, we are forced to hope in a better world. The need to love, which has its roots in the depth of the soul, before the poverty of Bethlehem, makes us quiver with new hope.

"The discouragement and disappointments that make our hearts heavy, like an oppressive millstone, seem to dissolve. We cannot refuse hope, before the mystery of a God who was born a child, in a shepherds' grotto."

"At Christmas," said Father Pizzaballa, "even the person most cruelly hurt by life rediscovers that God continues to live amongst us. Wars and violence are not the last word to set a seal on history. History and despair do not suppress the need for love that continues to tenaciously inhabit the human spirit. The light of God still shines in the silence of Bethlehem and illuminates the paths of men.

"Experiences of disappointment and social failure can wither the horizons of the soul, but if we look at the star of Bethlehem, life lights up once again. We understand, with the simple and concrete wisdom of the faith, that God also performs the miracle of joy and fraternity in us. With tremulous wonder, we turn our eyes to Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we are enraptured by their joyous serenity. They are poor, but they have had the courage to believe."

"This Christmas," concluded the Custos, "we want to pray so that we can also be capable of welcoming Jesus, like them, believing that the Love of God can change our lives. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world (John 1:9), and, at last inebriated by a hope that is never disappointing, we can witness it."