Back Remise de la "Lumière de la Paix de Bethléem"

As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Dear Ms Winzig,

President of the Ministers' Deputies, dear Domenik,

Ambassador of Austria, dear Aloisia,


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


Over the course of four decades now, the Peace Light of Bethlehem has been carried from the Church of the Nativity in Israel to Austria.

It has also visited countries throughout the world –

Raising awareness and support for children with disabilities and people in need –

As well as spreading the message of hope and peace that is at the heart of the Christmas celebrations –

And all world religions, at their best.

This year, we really need the peace light to burn brighter than ever.

In the Holy Land, from where this flame was brought –

Terrible events have unfolded this year.

Our hearts ache for the victims –

And we long for a lasting solution that will end the cycle of violence that causes such pain.

On top of this, of course, our dear member state Ukraine continues to suffer from Russia’s appalling war of aggression.

We think of the bravery of those Ukrainians soldiers who are defending their country –

The pain and suffering of Ukrainian refugees who are separated from their families, homes and communities –

And the grief of those who have lost loved ones in this senseless violence.

This season will be especially hard for them.

There will be a time when the violence ends and lives and communities will be rebuilt.

We long for that day –

And at the Council of Europe, we will continue to do whatever we can to help achieve a just and sustainable peace.

Our Organisation is, after all, in many ways also a peace project.

Dear friends,

I finish simply by thanking you.

All the members of the choirs and the conductors.

Thanking you Ms Winzig, you and the Austrian authorities, dear Aloisia –

And all the organisers, volunteers and young people who have taken the time to transport the Peace Light of Bethlehem –

And helped bringing it all the way here to the Council of Europe and Strasbourg.

Your clear commitment to a better world renews our hope –

That one day light will replace darkness –

And that better times will come.


Thank you for your attention.

Strasbourg, 11 December 2023
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