Dan Kiefer, Unsplash.com

Violence feeds longing for the Prince of Peace

  • December 7, 2023

Advent is the time of waiting and preparation for the coming of Jesus. This Avent I await the Prince of Peace. I roll the words over my tongue and in my mind daily — the Prince of Peace. How we long for you in these days! 

“For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” is one of my favourite pieces from Handel’s Messiah. It was this music that came into my mind as Advent arrives during a time of war in the world. Taken from Isaiah 9:6, this year we will hear these words proclaimed during the first reading of the Midnight Mass,

For a child has been born for us,

a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

and he is named

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Pierbattista Cardinal Pizzabella, O.F.M. is the Latin Patriarch of Jersusalem. The Franciscan Friar was made a Cardinal by Pope Francis on Sept. 30, one week before Hamas attacked Israel. He quickly condemned Hamas’ actions and offered himself as a hostage in exchange for captive Israeli children. He said he would do the same for Palestinian captives. “It’s nothing extraordinary; it’s following in the footsteps of Jesus, who did it for all of us.”

On Oct. 24 he wrote a very moving letter to his diocese with these words about the Prince of Peace: “It was on the Cross that Jesus won: not with weapons, not with political power, not by great means, nor by imposing Himself. The peace He speaks of has nothing to do with victory over others. He won the world by loving it. It is true that a new reality and a new order begin on the Cross.”

The Prince of Peace wins the world by loving it.

The Cardinal expresses special care and closeness for the community in Gaza. Most people do not know the Church is in northern Gaza. The Church of the Holy Family is a tiny community of a few hundred souls. It is served by priests from the Institute of the Incarnate Word and works closely with three women’s religious orders, including the Missionaries of Charity. The compound contains a care facility for the disabled and a school.

Vatican News reported that Pope Francis is in regular contact with the parish. Sr. Nabila Saleh said, “We want peace because war does no one any good. We want this brutal war to end. Many people have lost their loved ones, their homes and everything they have. We ask for justice: justice and peace. The Palestinian people also have the right to live…we ask that you pray for us.”

The first time I saw the Holy Family Church was in a video shared by our sister Caritas Jerusalem. A Mass is taking place. We see a young girl walking across the back aisle among the congregation when we hear the whistling of a missile and feel the whole church rock with the nearby explosion. I have been haunted by that video. I imagine it on Sundays when I am at Mass in my own parish — the whistling of that bomb. When we pray for peace, I think of my sisters and brothers at Holy Family.

There are now over 600 displaced people taking shelter in the parish. So far, the Prince of Peace has spared them. Our sister Caritas Jerusalem has set up two medical clinics, one at Holy Family and one at St. Porphyrios, the Orthodox Church. Two of their staff based in Gaza have been killed. Viola Al ‘Amash, 26, was a lab technician and was killed along with several members of her family, including her small child when the hall of the Orthodox Church was bombed. Issam Abedrabbo, 35 years old, was a pharmacist and widower who was killed in a bombing with two of his sons. His three-year old daughter is now an orphan.

As the Canadian member of Caritas, we pledged $150,000 to Caritas Jerusalem as soon as hostilities broke out. We have raised over $300,000 and more donations come in daily. This Advent we will express our closeness with the land where Jesus was born in a very special way. We will use the generosity of Christians to win the world by loving it. We will be witnesses to the Christ Child born in a manger, the Prince of Peace.

(Stocking is Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions, for Development and Peace.)

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