On the diamond jubilee of Fr. Manuel Musallam

Submitted by munir on Mon, 07/17/2023 - 12:57

With his distinctive tone of voice, 85-years-old Fr. Manuel Musallam invited me to participate in the celebration marking  the diamond jubilee (60 years) of his priestly ordination. I responded favorably in appreciation of the kind invitation from an old and noble brother. He also invited my dear uncle, Fr. Manuel Bader, because he wanted to meet on that day with people of his age and of his classmates.


I expected the celebration to be extraordinary, just like the extraordinary personality of Fr. Manuel. He was born in Birzeit in 1938, and was ordained a priest since 1963 after he received his  education at the Latin Patriarchal Seminary of Beit Jala. He served in several parishes in Palestine, the most important of which, of course, is the Church of the Holy Family in Gaza from 1995 to 2009.


Over the past 60 years, this charismatic personality has maintained a balance between spiritual priestly missions and the sublime values it bears through education on the one hand and presiding at religious rites in addition to blessing homes, and visiting the sick. Likewise, he composed hymns and music or applied them to existing melodies especially during his service in the Palestinian city of Zababdeh near Jenin from 1975 to 1995. On the other hand, the figure of this national priest--who defended his people and their just global cause--emerged on the Palestinian arena.


The Palestinian Christian Arab voice, formed by Father Manuel, was expressed by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa during his homily, when he said: “The clergyman (priest) who loves God must love his brethren.” Love of others means sympathizing with them as well as  recognizing their personal and societal pain as has been the case with Manuel and the Palestine problem. Silence implies injustice, which is a violation of the divine message that a clergyman holds. Yet, he neither carries weapons nor lauds violence, but rather encourages peaceful resistance and defends usurped human rights, while trying to alleviate suffering.


The Jubilee celebration reflected a Palestinian heritage par excellence. The priest had asked the women of Birzeit to wear the Palestinian dress, so that this day would be patriotic par excellence and expressive of Manuel’s priestly and Palestinian affiliation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas honored him by awarding him the Gold Star of Jerusalem, while Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh attended the dinner held in his honor at  the church yard. Later, Cardinal-elect His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa celebrated Holy Mass which was concelebrated by nonagenarian Patriarch emeritus Michel Sabah, who is still referred to as the Patriarch of the People in the same way as Fr. Manuel is referred to priest of the people. During the dinner banquet all addresses concurred on the love for Palestine.


Palestine is not a barren woman, as it gave birth to numerous national personalities whom history will remember. We plead with God to have this proficient mother see the dawn of freedom and justice that Father Manuel Muslim calls for as he chose the motto of his  diamond jubilee "I  devoted myself to everyone so as to attract everyone to the homeland.

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Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader