JAMAICA — Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica had a special arrival on Dec. 6: a candle from Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem.
Called the Peace Light, the candle traveled thousands of miles from Bethlehem via Austria for an arrival ceremony at Our Lady of the Skies Chapel in Terminal 4. It was the flame’s point of entry into the United States. People come to JFK to light their own lanterns with the flame, and then bring the lanterns to parishes and communities across the country.
The Peace Light came to JFK via Austrian Airlines in two explosion-proof British mining lamps. The continuously burning flame originates at the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Each year, an Austrian Boy Scout fetches the light from the grotto, and then the flame is distributed from Austria to worldwide delegations for use at ceremonies and ecumenical services during Christmastime.
The Peace Light, a gift from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, has long been a symbol of unity from the Middle East. It was first brought to Ground Zero in 2001 by Canadian Scouts, and has been coming to the U.S. each year around Advent.
At the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Peace Light ceremony, which was hosted by the diocese’s Catholic Committee on Scouting, families including local Boy and Girl Scout troops gathered at the Our Lady of the Skies Chapel to witness the historic flame being passed.
“It symbolizes a light shining to the world, and how Jesus brings light and darkness and a ray of hope, that the light will overcome the darkness, and God will prevail,” Deacon Vincent Lino of the Our Lady of the Skies Chapel said at the ceremony.
“This is our hope and faith — it’s a very international event, how people who don’t always get along at other times will then pull together to make sure that this event happens. If you’re ever at Kennedy airport, stop by the chapels and say a Hail Mary.”
Tesher Andres, a 14-year-old Boy Scout, comes to the Peace Light ceremony every year with his family to see the flame being distributed.
“We love that the light is one thing that represents peace in the world, and it’s something that we all need. It brings more peace to our Christmas season,” Tesher said.
The Peace Light candle will burn well and bright until after Three Kings Day at JFK.