lbillin, December 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Pilgrims of Ibillin,
While I served as Archbishop in Galilee, I always sent an Annual Christmas Greeting; it was always a feeling of communion and of deep gratitude. This year it is somehow different; I am writing to you as a retired Archbishop. Indeed, I decided over a year and a half ago to retire and go back to my natural milieu. In fact I am most privileged to be back at Mar Elias Educational Institutions, where one never gets older but we mature constantly. I was pleased and grateful to give up the honor of serving as Archbishop.
Now every morning when I open the entrance door of my residence, I see the trees, I see the small mountain behind the church, and I see also the arrival of the students, and I pray “Thank you Lord for this day”. That is why I am writing to you, to say thank you, brothers and sisters, for your solidarity and, very specially, for your prayers.
You have been and are still an important factor in my faith in peace. Among my dear dreams would be to see you again in Galilee. We always have a place for you. Our students are most happy to meet with you personally and have an exchange about the present and the future. In case it is difficult for you to come over, I would be most delighted to have a possibility to see you again, whether in Europe or in America or in Australia or in Africa. Wherever you live, you contributed to form my dream, and for that, I say “Thank You”.
As a retired Archbishop, I have full control over my days, which is not to say I am jobless. My office is open to anybody who comes, and many do come individually or in groups. I make sure that I have enough time to pray and read. How could you want a happier life for me? It is much more that I deserve. Imagine me standing at the entrance of my residence, watching literally hundreds of cars coming every day, and very intensely so when there is a parents’ meeting. In fact, we create a travel jam that goes as far as the center of the village. For me, it is not merely a car phenomenon, but it is so many hundreds of parents, Christians and Muslims, Jews and Druze, who stream to the school. We are grateful, happy and concerned to give these people the best image of themselves being all alike: Born babies in the image and the likeness of God himself.
Isn’t that the main message of Christmas: “Be not afraid, I bring you good tidings of great joy, a savior has been born to you”? This is what I wish to remind you very humbly.
My dear brothers and sisters, do not stop witnessing the birth of “The Prince of Peace”, and please pray for us, here in the Holy Land, to hear the calling of the angels: “Glory be to God in the highest and peace on earth to men and women on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
“Christ is born – do praise him, Christ has come to our world – do glorify him”.
Ahuna Elias Chacour Archbishop em. Of Galilee