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Encyclical of His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew on the Nativity of our Lord

CHRISTMAS ENCYCLICAL

+ Bartholomew

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.

Christmas 2015

Your Fervent Supplicant before God