Archbishop Fouad Tawl, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, waves to the more than 6,000 parishioners, welcoming them to a special Mass to mark the start of the final week of the Year of Faith. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

Year of Faith coming to an end

  • November 21, 2013

NAZARETH - Archbishop Fouad Tawl, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, urged “faith and only faith” during a Mass celebrated Nov. 17 in the city of Jesus’ childhood to mark the final week of the Year of Faith.

During his homily Tawl, speaking in Arabic, called for prayers for peace in the Middle East and, specifically, prayers for the two million Syrians who have been forced from their homes by the ongoing civil war that has taken more than 100,000 lives.

“We are living in a difficult situation in the Middle East and I said frankly that we have less credibility (because of that),” he said following the Mass. “We hope more in God’s love and mercy to give us peace and justice, to give peace to the Middle East.”

Organizers estimated that about 6,200 people attended the Mass hosted in an outdoor stadium built specifically for the event.

“I am happy to preside at this Church event,” Tawl said. “It was not only for the local Church — there is a worldwide dimension. We were happy to have guests and pilgrims from Europe, from Jordan, from Palestine (and) from everywhere.”

The twin messages of peace and faith resonated throughout the Mass, which was celebrated in a mosaic of languages, including Arabic, Latin and Hebrew.

During the celebration a letter from Pope Francis was read in English.

“In announcing the Year of Faith my beloved predecessor Benedict XVI reminded us that one aspect of the size and importance of this year is the retracing of the history of our faith marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the intermingling of holiness and sin,” said the Pope.

“This past year has provided all of us an opportunity to reflect anew on the mystery of faith and on the holiness of God which he has shared with us in Jesus Christ. We do so as sinners, aware of our unworthiness but ever the more grateful of God’s mercy and enduring invitation for union with Him and with all people.”

Francis also spoke of the importance of visiting the Holy Land as the first step to truly understanding one’s faith, praising both those who make the pilgrimage and those who preserve the historic sites.

“Before we can understand our own, personal history of faith and our need for God’s mercy we must all turn to the place and time when Jesus himself walked among us,” he said. “I wish to express my deep appreciation to all Christians of the Holy Land for their faithful stewardship of the sacred sites and their enduring witness to the proclamation of the Gospel. I assure you of my prayers and gratitude to God for your deep faith and your perseverance.

“To the pilgrims who are present at this celebration, I likewise give the assurance of my prayers. May your experience of the sacred sites be an occasion for encountering Jesus Christ and deepening your love for him and for this Church.”

Sr. Esther, a member of the Community of the Beatitudes who goes only by her first name, said celebrating Mass with the pilgrims made the event special for her.

“We usually take care of God’s pilgrims but here we are all together,” said the nun from France, who’s lived in Israel since 2008. “It was very strong to me because I could see the Church that is living here and I prayed with them. It will give me more love for this specific Church of the Holy Land.”

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