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US ENVOY: PRESIDENT BIDEN IS CONCERNED WITH JERUSALEM CHURCH AFFAIRS

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem, received today, Friday June 10, His Excellency Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israel-Palestinian Affairs and Press and Public Diplomacy, at the Patriarchate.

After Mr. Amr conveyed the US President Joe Biden’s concern with the affairs and challenges facing Churches of the Holy Land, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III stressed that Christians in Jerusalem are under strain due to systematic attempts by Israeli radicals to rid the Holy City of the Christian presence.

The Patriarch added that Churches of the Holy Land are unified in their position to preserve the authentic Christian heritage and presence in Jerusalem despite all challenges put forward by radical Israeli organizations.

His Beatitude later spoke about how the radical Ateret Cohanim organization’s dubious legal battle to take over the Imperial Hotel at Jaffa Gate has potential danger on the entrance to the Christian Quarter and the Status Quo of the city, as it is the main entrance for the Christian pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other churches headquarters. With the court’s ruling in favour of Ateret Cohanim this week, His Beatitude added that all legal procedures are exhausted. Despite this unfair ruling the Churches remain steadfast in their commitment to support the current tenants of the properties and a vision for a multi-religious and multi-ethnic Jerusalem, despite the actions of Ateret Cohanim. His Beatitude added that the Christian properties at the New Gate are in danger as well, as the local authorities are pushing forward significant changes to the area.

The meeting highlighted how the plans of the Israeli Nature and Park Authority, who are acting in accordance with the Israeli radical group Elad, attempted to expand the Jerusalem Walls National Park into the Mount of Olives. Patriarch Theophilos explained how this plan would have entirely or partially encircled 20 Christian sites without consultation with the Churches, essentially confiscating and nationalizing Christian Holy Sites. His Beatitude stressed that although the plan was withdrawn, but is expected to be proposed again later in the year, causing Churches further distress. 

Furthermore, the Patriarch of Jerusalem spoke about the restrictions implemented on freedom of Christian worshippers, paired with a lack of police enforcement in response to religiously motivated attacks against Christians, that have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation to those who wish to practice their faith freely in Jerusalem. His Beatitude said that this year, on Saturday of the Holy Light, Jerusalem’s police restricted pilgrims and local Christians alike from entering the Christian Quarter, blocking access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. More often than not, the police used uncalled-for violence to prevent worshippers from making their pilgrimage to the site.

His Beatitude added that attacks against Christians and clergymen, at the hands of radical Israelis, have been increasing in Jerusalem, as well as vandalism against church properties, and verbal and physical abuse against priests are increasingly commonplace, particularly on Saturday nights. His Beatitude explained that an increasing aggressivity from radical Israelis is most prominent on Mount Zion, where Dormition Abbey and the Orthodox Garden are often targeted. The past Monday, June 6th, a church groundskeeper was threatened to have his eyes burned out with cigarettes and was told that he would be found and killed for attempting to secure the Christian property. Those said that Police rarely investigate these incidents, so much so that many clergy do not report crimes due to law enforcement turning a blind eye so frequently.

On the otherhand, Mr. Amr stated that the U.S. State Department is concerned with Christian heritage and presence in the Holy Land with special concern for the issue of Christian property at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. His Excellency also mentioned President Biden’s interest in meeting with Heads of Churches, to listen to their concerns on his upcoming visit to the region.

 




ISRAELI SUPREME COURT SUPPORTS THE RADICALS AGAINST THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM

Jerusalem, 08.06.2022 

 

Today, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision rejecting the Patriarchate’s latest attempts to annul the ruling issued against it in July 2017, through which the radical Israeli organisation, Ateret Cohanim, succeeded in expropriating the properties of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem at Jaffa Gate (Bab Al-Khalil) in Jerusalem, and this decision comes despite the legal battle waged by the Patriarchate for the past seventeen years.

The Patriarchate considered the court’s decision as unfair and not following to any legal or logical basis, as the radical organisation and its backers and supporters have followed crooked and illegal methods to acquire Christian real estate in one of the most important sites of Arab Islamic and Christian presence in Jerusalem.

Over the past years, the Patriarchate launched a legal, media and diplomatic campaign in which it incurred very high costs, in the judicial and diplomatic field, in order to pressure the Israeli authorities to prevent radical organizations from seizing these properties, but these attempts did not succeed under the pressure of these radical organizations and their agents who support them in the decision-making circles.

The Patriarchate affirmed that it will continue to support the Palestinian tenants in their steadfastness in these Christian properties, and that it is unwavering in its battle to curb the racist policy and the agenda of the extremist right-wing in Israel, aimed at eroding the multiple identity of the city of Jerusalem and imposing a new reality within it.

 




NEW THREATS AND VANDALISM AT THE CHAPEL OF HOLY ZION

Early on Monday morning, May 24/ June 6, 2022, a group of approximately fifty Israeli radicals of unknown origin, broke into the gate and barriers and trespassed on the chapel of the Patriarchate on the hill of Zion.

These radicals entered the chapel and defiled its interior and also threatened the guard at the premises who is appointed by the Patriarchate, saying “we know where you live and we will kill you”.

This type of trespass, intimidation and threatening have repeatedly taken place in this chapel, violating its holiness and continued witness of the Christian presence there since the time of the Last Supper and the day of Pentecost.

Escaping the harsh intimidation and fury of the radicals, the guard managed to call the police who came and intervened to restore order.

The Patriarchate strongly protests against this unacceptable behaviour and will check all the possibilities to attain justice for its rights and personnel.

The complaint to the police was filed by the President of the Finance Committee and Patriarchal Commissioner, His Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, who demanded that the police must do all they can to find the vandals and bring about justice, for the sake of the peace of the Christians, especially as we approach the celebration of the Holy Pentecost next Sunday and the Feast of the Holy Spirit on Monday.

From Secretariat-General

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PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM: WE WILL SUPPORT ALL EFFORTS TO REALISE JUSTICE FOR SHERIN ABU AQLEH

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem confirmed that it will support all efforts to realise justice for martyr Sherin Abu Aqleh, said Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, General Secretary of the Patriarchate, during a memorial service for Abu Aqleh held at the Roman Catholic Church in Bethlehem.

During the service, Archbishop Aristarchos delivered a speech on behalf of His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, praising Abu Aqleh for her devotion to the rights of her Nation and to her profession, condemning targeting her while she was performing her duty, and offering condolences to her family.

His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III had granted immediate exceptional blessing to bury Abu Aqleh, at the Orthodox cemetery. He also participated in the press conference held at Saint Joseph Hospital regarding the police assault against participants in her funeral.




THE FUNERAL SERVICE OF BLESSED METROPOLITAN AMBROSIOS OF NABLUS

The funeral service of the blessed Metropolitan Ambrosios of Nablus and Samaria, who slept in the Lord yesterday, was held today, Thursday 29 April/ 12 May 2022 at the Holy Church of Saint Basil in Tripolis at 12 noon. The service was officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, who represented His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos. His Eminence delivered the following obituary for the departed:

“Your Eminence, Metropolitan Alexandros of Mantineia and Kynouria,

 Pious Presbyters,

Christian congregation of the Church

After much sorrow, we were informed of the departure to Christ of our beloved brother in Christ and co-celebrant, Metropolitan of Nablus, Ambrosios.

We mourn today before his corpse, sorrow not for death, as “those who have no hope”, but the sorrow, which our Lord Jesus Christ cried in tears at the tomb of his four-day-dead friend Lazarus.

In the hope of eternal life, therefore, brethren, we remember the loving brother of ours, and we are referring to him, that since his early youth he came to the Holy Land from his hometown Pireaus, he studied at the Patriarchal School of Saint Demetrios and after his graduation, he joined the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood and was ordained a Deacon and Priest.

He studied theology at the University of Athens and served in various posts of the Patriarchate, as the Master of Ceremonies, bookkeeper, Archivist, Teacher at the Patriarchal School, Hegoumen of the Theotokos’ Tomb in Gethsemane, Patriarchal Representative in Acre. In 1981 he was elected and ordained Archbishop of Nablus and in 1999 he was named Metropolitan.

In the last years of his life, he became ill and was accepted and hosted, given the care and attention of your very dear to us Eminence, to the Old-people’s Home, at your Metropolis of Mantineia and Kynouria. Formerly he had received the brotherly hospitality from the Holy Metropolis of Veria, Naoussa and Campania.

The Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, which I represent along with the Exarch in Athens of the Holy Sepulchre, His Grace Archimandrite Raphael, after the order of H.H. Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, expresses its deepest thanks to your Eminence and the tireless working, willing and polite staff of the Old-people’s Home.

Escorting today with this service our departed brother to his last residence on earth and the permanent heavenly one, we entreat the Lord of life to forsake every voluntary or involuntary sin of his and deem him worthy of the eternal beatitude of the Resurrection and the community along with the just and the righteous.

May his memory be everlasting!”

His Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias was accompanied by the Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre in Greece, Archimandrite Raphael.

The departed Metropolitan Ambrosios of Nablus was honoured by the presence of His Grace Bishop Theoklitos of Tegea, His Eminence Metropolitan George of Kitro, Katerini and Platamona and many clergymen and faithful Christians from the Holy Metropolis of Mantineia and Kynouria. The departed was buried at the cemetery of Tripolis.

The Hagiotaphite Brotherhood prays for the repose of his soul in the land of the living with the just and the righteous.

Everlasting his remembrance.

From Secretariat-General

 




MEETING OF THE MAYOR OF JERUSALEM WITH THE HEADS OF CHURCHES

On Monday afternoon, 26 April/ 9 May 2022, the Mayor of Jerusalem Mr Moses Leon met with the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem at the Monastery of the Franciscans in Jerusalem – Custody of the Holy Land.

At this meeting the Abbot of the Franciscans Fr Francesco Patton addressed the Mayor, underlining that the Jewish Passover was celebrated recently, during which the Jews remember the freedom God gave them from the bondage of Egypt. The Christian Easter was celebrated as our transference from the bondage of sin to the freedom of the Resurrected Christ. Ramadan was also celebrated as a period of acquiring the virtues of fasting, abstinence and the help of the poor.

All these happened in Jerusalem, setting an example to remind us not only of the co-existence but also the brotherhood, the community of values ​​and principles of life. “Believing these, we wish you Mr Mayor, wisdom and power to work toward the prosperity of all citizens of Jerusalem regardless their religion or nationality”.

On this occasion, the Franciscan Brotherhood offered its emblem to the Mayor.

After the Custos, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos addressed Mr Mayor as follows:  

“Mr Mayor,

Your Beatitudes,

 Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Ladies and Gentlemen

We thank you, Mr Mayor, for your kind invitation to this gathering in this festive season. This is a time of the year when the eyes of the world are turned toward Jerusalem, and when we are most aware of the importance of Jerusalem not just for those of us who live here, but for the whole of humanity.

As the focal point of the divine-human encounter, Jerusalem has a universal significance that transcends all human boundaries and divisions. We are all sons and daughters of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is the spiritual home of all people of goodwill, regardless of their origin or creed. As we read in the Scriptures, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Luke 13,34).

This Paschal season makes visible the mission of the Church in maintaining this special character of Jerusalem and in upholding the multicultural and multifaith heritage that we share. As you are well aware, this unique identity of Jerusalem and its universal vocation are the serious peril from Israeli radical groups whose actions threaten the very fabric and foundation of this Holy City. So egregious is their activity, that it is catching the attention of religious and governmental leaders around the world, who recognise the dangers of such groups, and we cannot but express our deep concern to you.

The Churches are willing to work together with you for the common benefit and common good of all our people, but this work must rest upon mutual respect and the security of the historic rights and privileges of the communities that make up our society. We wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank our fellow Heads of the Churches, especially His Paternity Father Francesco, who has been instrumental in building up our common witness.

We are living in challenging times, and the role of Jerusalem is of greater significance to the human family than ever before. We understand fully the complexities of the issues that we face, and we are committed to finding appropriate solutions that will contribute to the well being of all our people.

May God bless you, Mr Mayor, and your colleagues, in the work that you do on behalf of our Holy City and all who live here and come here on pilgrimage.

Thank you.  

From Secretariat-General

 




THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM CONDEMNS THE ISRAELI POLICE AGGRESSION ON HOLY FIRE SATURDAY

23.04.2022

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned the practices of the Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Holy Fire Saturday celebrations.

The Patriarchate said in a statement that the police, deprived thousands of Christians of their natural right to worship freely, through military checkpoints it had deployed in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the form of security cordons, all the way from the gates of the old city leading to the church. These barriers prevented worshipers and those celebrating the feast from reaching the church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Patriarchate also affirmed its complete rejection of the violence practiced by the police against worshipers and the unethical behavior conducted by Police personnel at the checkpoints, especially those located in the vicinity of the Patriarchate headquarters and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Patriarchate reiterated its complete rejection of the restrictions that the Israeli police is attempting to impose through courts or negotiations, as the Patriarchate stressed that it will not succumb to pressure from the police or any other party regarding the number of worshipers in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and its vicinity. Furthermore, the Patriarchate expressed its refusal to surrender to a numerical limit to worshipers allowed into the church because this constitutes complicity in regards to the crime of depriving worshipers from access to their places of worship.

 




STATEMENT BY THE JERUSALEM PATRIARCHATE REJECTING THE PROPOSED RESTRICTIONS ON THE HOLY FIRE CEREMONIES

2022.04.21

 

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem officially informed the Israeli police yesterday through a letter addressed to its District Commander it’s rejection of any restrictions on the number of celebrants on Holy Fire Saturday inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, its courtyard, its surroundings, its roof, or the entrances leading to it. The letter was signed by the Secretary General of the Patriarchate, Archbishop Aristarchus, in which he refuted the police’s arguments for placing restrictions on the number of worshipers and limiting them to 1,700. The Patriarchate rejected this offer on principled grounds that it doesn’t accept any infringement to the right to freedom of worship.

The letter stated that the number of worshippers in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher annually on Holy Fire Saturday ranges between ten thousand and eleven thousand people, which is the normal capacity of the church. The letter argued that over the past years there has not been any incident that endangered the safety of worshipers, so the police’s argument that restricting the number of worshippers due to “public safety” concerns lacks any logical basis. The Patriarchate asked in its letter: If the pretext of public safety is a reason for reducing the number of worshipers inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, then why are there restrictions on in its courtyard, rooftop, adjacent neighborhoods, or even the entrances to the Old City? Especially at the main entrances to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Christian Quarter.

The patriarch made it clear that it will proceed as usual with its normal procedures related to Holy Fire Saturday and that it will issue invitations as it deems appropriate and without any limits. It also confirmed that all priests will in the Patriarch’s procession will not carry any badges, as the patriarchate affirmed the right of all worshipers to access The Church of the sepulcher, especially the participants in the morning prayer at the adjacent Church of St. Jacob, without any obstacles.

In the letter, the Patriarchate demanded the police not to put up barriers in the alleys of the Old City, as they impede the access of worshipers and priests from different monasteries to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Furthermore the Patriarchate demanded the police facilitation to freely transfer the Holy Light to the airport in order to transport it to different parts of the world, as is the custom on this important holiday, which is at the heart of the Christian faith.




STATEMENT BY THE ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM FOR EASTER 2022 

 
Jerusalem 4.11.2022
 

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem congratulates its congregations and all the people of the Holy Land on both sides of the Jordan River for the occasion of Easter and Saturday of the Holy Light, and at the same time we affirm our strong and renewed commitment to our natural right to celebrate our holidays along with our communities, families and to participate together in prayers at our churches in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the basic right of all our communities to access the Church of Holy Sepulchre and its vicinity during Easter festivities including Holy Light Saturday. Our communities have been exercising this divine right freely throughout the ages and different rulers, regardless of the circumstances that the Holy City went through in history.

For many years, participating in prayers and even having access to churches in the Old City, especially during Easter holidays, has become very difficult for our congregations and our people in general, due to police unilaterally enforced restrictions and its violence against believers who insist on exercising their natural divine right to worship. Previously, we had cooperated with different Christian bodies and leaders to bring our case to the international, domestic and judicial levels, and we also coordinated with the police themselves, with the aim of preventing the police from continuing their unacceptable practices, but unfortunately the promises were great and what actually took place on the ground was not even remotely close to those promises.

Instead of reversing its habitual unacceptable practices on Easter and Holy Fire Saturday, the police have recently informed the Patriarchate of additional new unilateral measures that increase restrictions on Holy Fire Saturday, to the effect that the police will only allow one thousand people to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on this great day, although it is customary to many thousands of worshippers to enter the church in celebration on that day. Furthermore, the police said that they will allow only five hundred people to enter the Old City and reach the Patriarchate yards and the overlooking roof of the Holy Sepulchre Church. The Patriarchate believes that there is no justification for these additional unjust restrictions, and affirms its explicit, clear and complete rejection of all restrictions. The Patriarchate is fed up with police restrictions on freedom to worship and with its unacceptable methods of dealing with the God given rights of Christians to practice rituals and have to access their holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Accordingly, the orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has decided, by the power of the Lord, that it will not compromise its right to provide spiritual services in all churches and squares. It also announces that prayers will be held as usual by the Patriarchate and its priests, hoping that believers are able to participate. This position of the Patriarchate stems from the basis of divine right, heritage and history. The police must stop imposing restrictions and violence that, unfortunately, have become part of our sacred ceremonies. We also urge our congregations to uphold our historical heritage through participating in the rituals and celebrations of Easter and Holy Fire Saturday this year in the Church of Holy Sepulchre and its vicinity.

 



AN APPEAL FOR PRAYER BY THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM HIS BEATITUDE THEOPHILOS III

 

Appeal for prayer