Official Communiqué – Christmas 2020

Official Communiqué:

According to the Status Quo, on January 18-19, the Armenian
Apostolic Church has the right to celebrate the feast of Nativity and
Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Nativity Church of Bethlehem.
Before the Christmas season, the Status Quo communities of
Armenians, Greeks and Latins prepare a program of “Religious
Ceremonies in Bethlehem”. According to the program, on January 18 at
11:00, the St. James Brotherhood, presided by His Beatitude the Armenian
Patriarch of Jerusalem, together with the pilgrims and faithful, makes a
solemn entry to the Nativity Church. From there, they proceed to the
Armenian Convent adjacent to the Nativity Church. From 14:00-18:00
another solemn entry is held in the Basilica and then entry to the Grotto.
Thereafter Vespers and Divine Liturgy is celebrated in the Grotto. The
ceremonies resume at 22:00. At midnight special ceremony is held in the
Grotto from where His Beatitude delivers his Christmas message to the
Armenian nation. On January 19, at 1:00-6:00 solemn Divine Liturgies and
“Blessing of Water” is held.
On the feast of the Armenian Christmas and Revelation, the Grotto
belongs to the Armenian Church for 24 hours. Armenian icon, Gospel and
two candles are put on the Altar of the Star in the Grotto.
On January 18, after the Armenian Divine Liturgy at 18:00, the
Greeks have right to incense in the Grotto. This year however, the Greeks
demanded from the Armenians to move the icon, Gospel, and candles from
the Altar of the Star in order to put their icon. This was rejected by the
Armenians because the Greeks don’t have any right to do so. A quarrel
was followed between the two sides.
After the negotiations and especially taking into consideration the
personal request of His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of
Palestine, His Beatitude the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem decided for
only this year 2020, allow the Greeks, to hold their icon in front of the Alter
of the Star without moving the Armenian icon, Gospel and candles from the
Altar of the Star.
During the Greek incense this year, the policemen held their icon.
Right after the incense, the icon was taken out of the Grotto.
It is worth mentioning that on January 18, 2020, violation of the rights
of the Armenian Apostolic Church was not recorded, and the temporary
agreement, was only for the year 2020.
After the feasts, the two communities, together with government
officials, will meet to solve the problem relying on the submitted documents.
The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Saint James
Brotherhood effectively carry out the mission of protecting the rights of the
Armenian Apostolic Church in the Holy Places of the Holy Land. That
mission was entrusted to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem for centuries.