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Christians in Jerusalem began the weekend before Christmas with an evening of prayer and music.

On Friday, Dec. 22, in the Church of St. Saviour, the Latin parish of Jerusalem, a small crowd of faithful gathered around the patriarch, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, for the penitential liturgy and Christmas carols performed by the three choirs of the parish.

“It is a moment of penance, but also of joy,” said the cardinal, introducing the prayer. “Bringing to God our poverty, our sins, is always an experience of joy because it means experiencing forgiveness, mercy, which we all need. Let us also bring to Him all the pain for our land so that He may transform it, according to His will, into good and mercy.”

The first part of the vigil was dedicated to the listening of the Word. 

The parish priest, Father Amjad Sabbara, delivered a brief homily on the “Christmas of Greccio,” experienced by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. 

On the occasion of the eighth centenary of this event, the faithful can obtain an indulgence by praying before a Nativity scene in a Franciscan church, such as that of St. Saviour in Jerusalem, where two are set up. The usual conditions must also be met: confession, communion, and prayer according to the intentions of the Pope. This was also the aim of the vigil evening in preparation for Christmas. Two priests were available for confessions throughout the time.

In the second part of the vigil, three choirs took turns, presenting a wide repertoire of Christmas carols. 

Before the final blessing, the patriarch emphasized once again the aspect of joy and hope: “May Christmas be a moment of smiles because when the Lord is with us, we have nothing to fear, and this should be seen on our faces.”

By Marinella Bandini

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