LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A song by a Bethlehem resident made in connection with a London-based band has been praised by Pope Francis as Christmas approaches.
Youstina Safar, a student at Bethlehem University, has collaborated with the band Ooberfuse on the song Hear Angels Cry. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement saying the song “resonates with the belief that hope for a better future, born in the hearts of humanity.”
In a message to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, the Vatican said Pope Francis “was pleased to learn of the Bethlehem Song Project.”
The document, signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said the pope feels the project will for this year’s Christmas seeks to draw attention to the “sublime significance” of the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
“Indeed, the land which was home to the Prince of Peace is called to be a place of encounter, dialogue and hope for all, and His Holiness trusts that this musical initiative will inspire many people this Christmas to pray for a new flourish of fraternal solidarity, reconciliation and peace in the Holy Land,” the document said.
The bishops’ conference noted there will be no Christmas tree or traditional festivities in Bethlehem this year in response to the thousands killed in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Holy Land. Instead, the focus in the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square in Bethlehem will be on praying for peace.
“In the midst of despair, our song Hear Angels Cry stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of hope in Bethlehem,” Safar said.
“While the traditional Christmas displays may dim this year in remembrance of lives lost in Gaza, our voices unite to affirm that hope will never succumb to darkness,” she added.
Cherrie Anderson, from the band Ooberfuse, said as they embarked on the music project in June, they never anticipated the cancellation of Christmas displays in Bethlehem.
“The dimming lights in Manger Square honor those who tragically lost their lives in the Holy Land. Hear Angels Cry embodies Jesus’s message of love, prevailing even in the face of hopelessness,” she said.
Anderson also said proceeds from the song will directly benefit those suffering in Gaza, “particularly the children reconstructing the fragments of their lives.”
As a partner in this project, John Handal, a music producer from Bethlehem and owner of RJ Music, has played a crucial role in bringing this collaboration to life. His commitment to the project reflects a shared vision of using music as a beacon of hope and healing in the region.
“It’s an honor to be part of a project that transcends borders and brings together artists from Bethlehem and London,” he said. “Hear Angels Cry is a testament to the enduring power of music to convey messages of peace and resilience. Through our collaboration, we aim to shine a light on the indomitable spirit of Bethlehem and support those affected by the conflicts in the Holy Land.”
The company says Hear Angels Cry is not just a song but a heartfelt plea for unity, compassion, and the enduring power of hope, even in the most challenging circumstances.
“This Christmas, the world is invited to join in this message of solidarity and support for those affected by the ongoing struggles in the Holy Land,” it says.
Funds raised from the sale of the song will be donated to Friends of the Holy Land, is a non-political Christian charity registered in the UK. Its mission is to secure a resilient and enduring Christian community in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan – the part of the world that Christians call the Holy Land.
The charity notes that at the beginning of the 20th century, Christians made up roughly 29 percent of the overall population of the Holy Land, while today they account for less than 2 percent.
“Without support, the Holy places of the Bible, the birthplace of Christianity, could become cultural museums with no Christian presence at all,” it says.