By God’s mercy
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the plenitude of the Church-
Grace, mercy and peace from the newborn Savior Christ in Bethlehem.
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The sweetness of the holy night of Christmas once again embraces
the world. In the midst of human toil and suffering, crisis and challenge,
greed and hatred, anxiety and despair, the mystery of the divine incarnation
presents the same charm as a truly tangible and ever contemporary reality,
urging “the inhabitants of the world to learn righteousness” (cf. Is. 26:9), for
“today our Savior is born” (Luke 2:11).
Unfortunately, however, in our age, many people think like Herod, that
illicit and utter slayer of children, annihilating their fellow human beings in
manifold ways. When Herod’s self-centeredness distorted his mind as an
earthly leader, he was paradoxically threatened by the birth of an innocent
Child. Therefore, Herod chose the annihilation of the Child as the most
appropriate way of protecting his earthly power.
To escape his murderous intentions, the Infant Jesus, about whom
the angels spoke, was forced to flee to Egypt, becoming (as we might say
in today’s terminology) a “political refugee,” together with Mary, his most-
holy mother and Theotokos, as well as the righteous Joseph.
In our time, which is considered a time of progress, many children are
forced to flee as refugees with their parents in order to save their lives,
which are undermined by diverse enemies. This is truly a disgrace for the entire human race.
For this reason, on the occasion of the nativity of the Child Jesus, our
genuine Redeemer and Savior, we proclaim from the most-holy Apostolic,
Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne that every society must guarantee the
safe development of children and respect their right to life, education and
normal upbringing, which may be secured by their nurture and formation
within the context of the traditional family, based on the principles of love,
compassion, peace and solidarity, which are gifts offered to us today by the incarnate Lord.
The newborn Savior invites everyone to receive this message of
salvation for all people. It is true that, in the long course of human history,
people experienced many migrations and settlements. Yet we would have
hoped that, after two world wars as well as numerous proclamations for
peace by church and political leaders and institutions, modern societies
would be able to secure the peaceful coexistence of people in their own
lands. Unfortunately events have shown otherwise and shattered our
hopes, because huge masses are today obliged to set out on a bitter road
as refugees in the face of annihilation.
This ever-escalating situation, with the constantly swelling wave of
refugees, increases the responsibility of those of us who are still blessed to
live in peace and some comfort, in order not to remain insensitive to the
daily drama of thousands of our fellow human beings. Instead, we are
called to express our practical solidarity and love, knowing that every
gesture of love toward them is ultimately attributed to the newborn and
incarnate Son of God, who came to the world neither as king and ruler, nor
as tyrant or aristocrat, but rather as a naked and defenseless Infant in a tiny
manger, homeless like many thousands of people at this very moment, and
forced from his earliest years to migrate to a distant land in order to survive
the hatred of Herod. The innocent blood of today’s refugee infants spills
onto the earth and into the sea, while Herod’s insecure soul “bears the guilt.”
This divine Infant, born in Bethlehem and headed to Egypt, is the
authentic guardian of today’s refugees, who are persecuted by modern-day
Herods. This Child Jesus, our God, “became weak to the weak” (cf. 1 Cor.
9:22), in every way becoming like us who are weak, wearied, at risk, as
refugees. Our support and assistance to the persecuted and displaced,
irrespective of race, ethnicity and religion, resembles the most precious gifts
of the wise men to the newborn Lord, like the invaluable treasures of “gold
and frankincense and myrrh” (cf. Matt. 2:11), an inviolable and permanent
spiritual wealth that remains incorrupt to the ages and awaits us in the heavenly kingdom.
Let each of us offer whatever we can to our refugee brothers and
sisters, in whom we see the person of Jesus Christ. Let us offer the
precious gifts of love, sacrifice and compassion to the small Child Christ
born in Bethlehem, imitating his tender mercy. And let us worship him with
the angels, the wise men and the simple shepherds, as we cry out “glory to
God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people” (Luke 2:14),
together with all the saints.
May the grace and abundant mercy of the refugee Infant Jesus be with you all.
Your Fervent Supplicant before God