On Holy Tuesday morning, April 10/23, 2019, the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood visited the Franciscan Brotherhood on the occasion of their Easter Feast and then the Latin Patriarchate.
His Beatitude addressed the Franciscans as follows;
“Your Paternity, dear Father Francesco,
Beloved Members of our Respective Brotherhood,
We greet you warmly today as you celebrate the Easter Feast, and we pray that God will give you the joy of the resurrection. Let us recall the words of Saint John Damascene that we sing in our Orthodox tradition:
Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ,
radiant with the unapproachable light of the resurrection,
and we shall clearly hear him say:
Rejoice! As we sing the triumphant hymn.
(Troparia from the Canon of Pascha)
Our common mission to be guardians and servants of the Holy Places is never more visible than it is during this festal season, when we welcome so many pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Holy Land for our celebrations of the Holy Week and Easter. The hopes of the world are also turned in our direction, even as we have news of the brutal bombing of churches in Sri Lanka last Sunday. We cannot deny that persecution against Christians is rising around the world, and this only increases the longing of Christians to be united in spirit and in prayer with the Holy Places where the history of our salvation has unfolded.
The Holy Places are also an undeniable testimony to the foundation of our faith, which is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as St. Paul says;
“If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.”
(1 Cor. 15:14,20)
Our unity of purpose and our close co-operation in this common mission has never been more crucial. It is a source of deep satisfaction to us that our co-operation has born such great fruit in recent years, and has proved to be the guarantee in protecting our rights and safeguarding our mission. The deepening of this unity of purpose and co-operation must always be at the forefront of our attention.
In the great infux of pilgrims every day, we see and hear a profound longing for the deep spiritual springs of life, consolation, and hope. Pilgrims come to the Holy Land not to escape from their everyday reality, but to draw from the Holy Places a fresh inspiration and sense of God’s presence, so that they may return home and live more focused and attentive Christian lives.
Such strengthening of the spiritual lives of pilgrims is so important in a world in which we see a disturbing increase in the persecution of Christians. There are two kinds of persecution, of course. There is the obvious persecution, of the kind we see all too often – the persecution of blood, where Christians are killed because of their faith and witness. We join with the world in condemning such acts of violence.
But there are other forms of persecution, and we think especially of the persecution of conscience, where often in countries that boast of freedom and democracy, Christian values are attacked, ridiculed, or held in open contempt, so that Christians are unable to express their views openly in contributing to the building up of a just society.
For all our sisters and brothers around the world who live and worship under pressure, the Holy Places have always been the sweetest inspiration. The Holy Places are also the protection and security of our local Christian communities both in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East. We have all heard the moving testimonies of pilgrims who come the Holy Land fearful, exhausted, and in despair, and who leave us filled with new hope because here they have experienced the diving energy that flows from this land of the divine-human encounter.
Μάϊος the pilgrims who leave us renewed and strengthened in their Christian lives be our inspiration to be faithful to our own mission. And may our local Christian communities be renewed by the hope that we are given in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Μay God bless you, dear Father Francesco, and the members of your Brotherhood, as well as the communities that you serve, and may the joy of the Easter Feast be your firm foundation.
Christ is risen!
At the Latin Patriarchate His Beatitude delivered the following address:
“Your Excellency, dear Archbishop Pizzaballa,
As you celebrate the great Feast of Easter, Your Excellency, along with your clergy and your communities throughout the Holy Land, we greet you with the joy of the Easter Feast. The uncreated Light of life shines from the Holy Tomb, and we sing;
How life-giving, how much more beautiful than paradise,
and truly more resplendent than any royal palace,
proved your grave,
the source of our resurrection, O Christ.
(From the Paschal Hours)
In this Paschal season we give thanks to Almighty God for the privilege that we have been given of the pastoral care of the Christian communities that live in the Holy Land, and who call this region our home. It is to those who live here to whom both the blessing and the burden of sustaining the Christian presence in the Holy Land has been entrusted by divine providence, and this is, as we have known through the ages, no easy mission.
Our local communities face many challenges as we work to maintain a vital and prosperous Christian presence here, and our close co-operation is a crucial element in helping our communities to thrive.
But we are sustained, as the First Letter of Saint John says, by “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (1 John 1:1). For the Holy Land is the place of this divine-human encounter, that has given life to the world. Our local communities are living witnesses to this encounter.
We know, too, that the life of the Christian communities of the Holy Land is an inspiration to the rest of the world, and our mission reaches beyond our particular borders. We know that our diakonia here is not four ourselves alone, but for the whole world.
The world comes to the Holy Land to see the physical evidence of our sacred history, and goes away with an inner spiritual renewal. The world comes to us to gaze on stones, and goes away having glimpsed heaven. The world comes to us to walk on dusty pathways, and goes away having partaken in a heavenly pilgrimage. The world comes to us to venerate the Holy Tomb, and goes away having received from it the divine energy and the light of resurrection.
As we sing in the Easter service,
Come let us drink a new drink,
not one marvellously brought forth from barren rock,
but the Source of incorruption,
which springs forth from the grave of Christ,
in whom we are established.
(Heirmos Ode Three from the Canon of Pascha)
Here the thirsty comes, and meets communities of other thirsty souls, and there is a vision of the age that is to come. This is the land of the divine energy that helps us to understand our lives, especially in these challenging times.
Μay God bless you, Your Excellency, along with your clergy and your communities, and may we, who share a common mission in our beloved Holy Land, share a common joy in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.