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THE NGO ‘ROMIOSINI’ TO THE HOLY PLACES AND THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Friday 26th of June / 9th of July 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received a group of around 50 pilgrims who had come to venerate the Holy Places within the framework of a pilgrimage embarked upon by the Non Governmental Organization ‘Romiosini’ the purpose of which was the support and promotion of the Holy Shrines and their preservation by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

This pilgrimage included Egypt, the pyramids and the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine in Sinai and, in the north and the south of the Holy Land, all the Holy Shrines including, primarily, the Church of Resurrection and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III addressed the members of ‘Romiosini’ elaborating on the work done by the Patriarchate and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepuchre in guarding and preserving the Holy Places of Christianity in the Holy Land. His Beatitude then presented them with souvenirs of the Holy Places praising them for their endeavours and unwavering support given to the august Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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DR. HANNA AISSA DECORATED BY THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM.

On Wednesday 10th – 23rd of June 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III decorated Dr. Aissa Hanna, member of the Arab-speaking Orthodox flock of our Patriarchate. Dr. Hanna is employed at the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Office serving by the President Mahmud Abbas Abu Mazen and the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

His Beatitude decorated Dr. Aissa Hanna with the order of the Orthodox ‘Cross-Bearer of the Holy Sepulchre’.

His Beatitude received Dr. Hanna at the Patriarchate noting “that the Patriarchate is regarded as Dr. Hanna’s home and of all Palestinians, Christian and Muslim. We cordially welcome Dr. Hanna to the Patriarchate and to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

We praise him for his numerous years of ethical and substantive interest in favour of the Patriarchate’s Communities. We hereby decorate Dr. Aissa Hanna with the order of the ‘Cross Bearer of the Holy Sepulchre”.

Dr. Hanna with deep emotion expressed his gratitude and promised to His Beatitude that he will dedicate all his powers in serving the Church and Country.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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CHRONICLE OF MEETINGS OF HIS BEATITUDE DURING THE 3RD WEEK OF JUNE 2010.

1. Visit of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, NIKOLA SPIRIC.

On Monday, 1st of June/14th of June 2010, His Beatitude received the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Nikola Spiric. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers expressed his gratitude to His Beatitude for the reception and conveyed regards from the citizens of the region of Bosnia and Herzegovina where he comes from. He said that inhabitants of this region have paid the forfeit of the war. Furthermore, he implored His Beatitude to pray for their peace and prosperity. 

His Beatitude informed Mr. Spiric that He follows the political developments and that He is aware of the events in the Balkans and in Serbia. The Patriarchate, as a representative of all Orthodox Nations in the Holy Land, undertakes a pacifying role in the region and receives pilgrims from all countries.

“The Patriarchate”, according to His Beatitude, “guarantees the unity of the various Orthodox Nations from the Holy Land”. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers reaffirmed His Beatitude about his personal endeavours to contribute to the peaceful coexistence of the national and religious minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, His Excellency the Prime minister implored the prayers of His Beatitude for peace, tolerance, coexistence and welfare in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2.  Visit of Pofessor Mr. Kitromilides, His Excellency Mr. Sotiris Athanasiou,His Excellency Mr. Alexander Filon and Ms Fotini Tomai-Konstantopoulou

On Tuesday, the 2nd of June/15th of June 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received Mr. Paschalis Kitromilides, Professor of History at the University of Athens, the General Consul of Greece His Excellency Mr. Sotiris Athanasiou accompanied by the Honorary Ambassador His Excellency Mr. Alexander Filon and Mrs. Fotini Tomai-Konstantopoulou Head of the Historical Archives of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the context of this visit, a discussion was held regarding the Patriarchate’s mission in the Holy Land and various ways were considered by which the Patriarchate and motherland Greece can cooperate more efficiently in facilitating the Patriarchate to better perform its mission.

3. End of the school year at the Patriarchal School of Sion

Following this, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received the professors and the students of the Patriarchal School of Sion and blessed them for the end of the school year.

Ioannis Miniadis, a graduate of the School, addressed His Beatitude and conveyed his heartfelt thanks for everything that was offered to him by the Patriarchate and the School during his attendance.

His Beatitude praised the lecturers for their devoted educational work, wished the students of the School happy holidays and a good return to the coming school year of 2010-2011, expressing them His optimism that they will meet the standards become members of the august Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. He awarded the graduate the ‘Apolyterion’ and wished him a brilliant career.

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HIS BEATITUDE RECEIVED MR. CHRISTIAN COINTAT, MEMBER OF THE FRENCH SENATE.

On Monday, 25th of May / 7th of June 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem Mr. Christian Cointat, member of the French Senate, representing French citizens living abroad.

In the context of this visit an interesting and constructive discussion took place regarding Jerusalem and particularly the Holy Places considered as being of outmost spiritual importance for each individual and for religion as a whole.

“Jerusalem”, His Beatitude said, “is the spiritual capital of the world. It is in Jerusalem that the Crucifixion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ took place. This gives us the strength to be optimistic despite the difficulties. This hope and determination supports our Patriarchate which together with the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher performs its religious, social, peaceful and educational mission in the Holy Land.

“Regarding Christian emigration”, His Beatitude continued “exists as a problem which should be dealt with to its roots and not through the prism of politics”

His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III offered to Senator Mr. Christian Cointat and the members of his escort the book by Mr. Vokotopoulos on the illustrated manuscripts of the Patriarchate’s Library.

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THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF BOSNIA – HERZEGOVINA VISITS THE PATRIARCHATE.

On Monday, 1st / 14th of June 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received his Excellency Mr. Nicola Spiric, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Chairman of the Council expressed his gratitude to His Beatitude for the cordial welcome and conveyed regards from the citizens of his country who have suffered the consequences of war and implored His prayers for peace and their prosperity.

His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III informed his Excellency Mr. Spiric that He is aware of the difficulties faced by his people and that He keeps abreast of the political developments in the Balkans and former Yugoslavia, noting that the Patriarchate as the representative of all Orthodox Nations in the Holy Land exerts its pacifying role to the area in addition of receiving numerous pilgrims from all countries and nations.

His Beatitude stated that “The Patriarchate ensures the unity for the various Orthodox Nations from the Holy Land”.

The Prime minister reaffirmed his personal efforts in contributing for the peaceful coexistence of the ethnic and religious minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

His Excellency Mr. Nikola Spiric the Prime minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina implored the prayers of His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III for peace, tolerance, coexistence and prosperity for his country.

Chief Secretary’s Office.

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THE PRESIDENT OF THE SERBIAN PARLIAMENT AT THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM.

On Wednesday 27th of May / 9th of June 2010, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III received the President of the Parliament of the Serbian Republic, Mr. Igor Radojicic.

The President and his escorts were participating at the Jerusalem International Conference 2010.

During the meeting, His Beatitude talked to the President on matters regarding the Patriarchate’s mission and the role of the Orthodox Church in uniting people of different national identities.

The President of the Parliament presented to His Beatitude a precious volume on the treasures of Serbia. His Beatitude reciprocated by offering to the President and escorts books by the author Mr. Vokotopoulos and souvenirs of Jerusalem.

The President of the Serbian Republic then visited the Church of Resurrection and other Holy Places in the Holy Land.

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THE ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY THE MOST REVEREND DR. ROWAN WILLIAMS VISITS THE HOLY LAND

The Archbishop of Canterbury of the Anglican Church the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, a scholar and writer, well disposed towards Orthodoxy, has visited the Holy Land again. Previously he had visited mainly with the aim of aiding the residents of Bethlehem and had invited His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III to participate in the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church (19 July -3 August 2008). On Sunday 8th /21st of February a reception in his honour was held at the Anglican Church of Saint George the Great Martyr in East Jerusalem by the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem His Eminence Right Reverend Suheil Dawani. Invited to this reception, amongst others were the representatives of the Christian Churches in the Holy Land, representatives of the Department on Christian Communities of the Ministry of Religion, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel and representatives of the Israeli Police in Jerusalem.

At the reception the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams was welcomed on behalf of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem by the Anglican Bishop His Eminence Suheil S. Dawani who thanked him for his visit to the Holy Land, the land where, he said, Lord Jesus Christ deigned to visit in body and was Incarnated for us, the land where a small flock resides, a Christian Community which is now decreasing due to the political tension. His Eminence Suheil Dawani expressed his wish that the mutual respect between the followers of the three Abrahamic religions will constitute the basis and the foundation for peace in Jerusalem whilst retaining its beauty, which is also essentially its diversity.

In the name of the Christian Churches in the Holy Land His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III addressed the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams. His Beatitude was escorted by His Eminence Isihios Archbishop of Capitolias, His Eminence Aristarhos Archbishop of Constantina, His Eminence Dorotheos Archbishop of Avila, Hierodeacon Fr. Athanasios and the Rum-Orthodox Dr. Halil Andraous.

The address of His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III is as follows:

“Your Grace, the Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams

Your Eminences

Dear Brothers and Sisters

Distinguished guests

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven”. (Mathew 5:13-16).

On behalf of church leaders in the holy land, We welcome His Grace, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. rowan Williams to the holy city of Jerusalem.

We are physically only a few hundred meters away from the church of the Holy Sepulcher and a relatively short travel away from Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity.

Despite this close proximity between the two Holy cities, the faithful cannot visit one or the other freely. This situation can only be described as tragic. It is hugely unacceptable when political failures are expressed in restricting freedom of worship especially at a time when we, religious leaders, push for inter-religious dialogue and the principles of convergence and coexistence.

But not all dissimilar ideologies deal with their differences using the same methods practiced by politicians. The convergence between the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion carries in its spirit a role model for bringing together diverse ideologies throughout the world.

The dialogue between Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion began in 1973, when the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Discussions held its first meeting in Oxford. Through its first phase of 1976, second phase in 1984 and the conclusion of its third phase concluded in the Cyprus Agreed Statement, considerable agreement was reached over a range of issues.

We and Our Jerusalem Patriarchate of Jerusalem share these important intentions and drive for these honorable fraternal relations.

Our convergence should be developed to include more faiths and take hands –on forms of manifestation through cooperation to achieve justice and peace so as to ultimately bridge the distance between the church of Nativity and the church of Holy Sepulcher.

The current political misfortune lived in the Middle East, especially in our beloved Holy Land, carries within its reality tragic human experiences. We church leaders, guardians of faiths and carriers of holy messages intend and persevere to effect a continuation to merge through dialogue that produces practical unified vision on how responsibility can be taken towards achieving justice and peace and forming a conduit for diffusing tension and support for positive political action.

We speak with utmost sincerity about our existence as clergy and about efforts towards the realization of justice, peace and stability. At the same time, we have to be very cautious in taking the religious dimension of the political conflict and not to mistaken it for a political tool but rather as an integral part of the conflict’s resolution.

Such responsibility may touch upon causing a change in the moral climate that governs this part of the world. Such change, given the nature of the relation between human and religion in the Holy Land, can only be achieved through the solid will of religious leaders and when encouragement is given to our respective congregations to rediscover the true meaning of justice and peace in the ultimate spiritual context.

We believe that we are in the company of one of the world leaders in promoting dialogue and coexistence. The work of Your Grace in this aspect has been inspirational, to say the least, to many of us who share the same values and vision, We commend the statement given Al-Azhar University in Cairo in the Third anniversary of the 11th of September terrorist attacks, when Your Grace pointed that the followers of the will of God should not be led into ways of violence. This drives Us to say: no doubt in my mind that The Most Reverend Rowan Williams is one of the utmost “Orthodox” believers in justice and peace for all human kind.

We would also like to extend our thanks and gratitude to our host and friend Bishop Suheil Duawani who has showed great responsibility in supporting and cooperating with many initiatives and events that serve the purpose of promoting Justice and Peace in the Holy Land.

Thank you”.

In response, the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams said the following:

‘For someone to live in Jerusalem or to visit it is a grace, a blessing, a gift from God, a challenge and an opportunity to self-reflect. The work of God for mankind in the Holy Land urges and implores us to empathize with Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is a city in which all nations are called upon to live ‘Let’s rise to the mount of the Lord’. This happened on the day of Pentecost and it happens also today. Jerusalem is destined to have its gates open to everyone, but for some they are closed. For some, entrance is excluded.’

‘The way of life for the inhabitants throughout the centuries in a Jerusalem which had its doors open to everyone, sets the example for peace in the present. Let’s remember the words of the ancient ascetic hermits “our life and our death entirely depends upon the life and death of our neighbour. If our neighbour lives, we live also with him; if he dies we also die with him”.

The following Monday 9th/23rd February 2010, the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, escorted by His Eminence Michael Jackson Anglican Bishop of Ireland, His Eminence Suheil Dawani Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and other clergy, visited His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III at the Patriarchate.

During this visit His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III addressed the Archbishop of Canterbury as follows:

“Your Grace, Archbishop Rowan

Bishop Suheil,

Bishop Michael,

Your Eminences,

Dear Fathers

With great joy we welcome you, Your Grace Archbishop Rowan, and those with you, to our Patriarchate once again.

As we welcome you, we remember with deep gratitude our time with you at the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury and the Walk of Witness against Global Poverty in London in 2008. We honor you in your archpastoral ministry of peace and justice both at home and around the world, and we recognize the care and concern that you have always shown to the Holy Land. We commend your thoughtfulness, and the wisdom and discretion that always mark your words and deeds.

We are also appreciative of the way in which, by your writings and your primatial ministry, you have helped to deepen the knowledge of Orthodoxy among Western Christians and thereby helped to a lay a further foundation for the unity of all Christians.

Your efforts to articulate the message of the Gospel in an increasingly secularized society are a reflection in a different place of the ministry of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem here to maintain the sacredness of Jerusalem and the integrity of the Holy Places in our region.

Jerusalem forms a kind of “universal parish”. Here millions of pilgrims come every year – Jews, Christians, Muslims and even those of no particular religious affiliation – and it is the special ministry of the Patriarchate to offer spiritual consolation and encouragement to all who come in search of the presence of God.

We know that you understand that a strong and vibrant Patriarchate ensures a strong and vibrant Christian presence in the Holy Land. We value your efforts on our behalf and we continue to ask for your prayers as we seek to be a living sign in the Holy Land of the message of mutual respect, reconciliation and peace that is our responsibility in the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

And in asking for your prayers we assure you of our own prayers for you and for the unity and well-being of the Anglican Communion with which, for so many generations, the Orthodox Church has enjoyed such close and mutually beneficial relations.

Despite the current tensions within the Anglican Communion, we continue to be committed to dialogue. Our dialogue helps us all to re-discover the shared sources of the fullness of the Christian faith, especially in the Holy Scriptures as well as the Church Fathers and Saints whom we hold in common. It is by returning to the shared heritage, we believe, that we shall find the best way of healing the divisions that keep us separated from each other. For it is not in administrative structures or any form of accommodation, but in faith, that our unity in Christ will be firmly established.

This year Christians in both the East and the West enjoy the opportunity of celebrating the Feast of the Resurrection on the same day, and so we have also entered into the fast of Great Lent together.

‘Attend, O Heaven, and I will speak, and will sing of Christ,

who came to dwell among us in flesh which he took from the Virgin’.

We sing these words at the beginning of Great Lent in the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, and they remind us of the truth that we begin Lent with the remembrance of the Incarnation of the Logos. Our celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy yesterday is just this, an affirmation that God came to share our human nature, and so to teach us that our human nature comes from the same divine source.

In this spirit of our common humanity redeemed by Our Lord Jesus Christ, we bestow our Patriarchal blessing on your trip to the Holy Land, and we thank you again for your visit to the Patriarchate”.

To this address the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams responded broadly as follows:

‘It is for us, Your Beatitude, Bishop of the Jerusalem Church, a particular pleasure to meet with you again. We highly appreciate the stance of your Church and Your acceptance and participation in the Lambeth Conference. We pray for your Church as the local Church of Jerusalem that contributed greatly in conserving the Christian presence and identity in the Holy Land. The increasing presence of Christians in the Holy Land is a gift from God to the world. This is indeed possible because the Lord said to Paul, the Apostle of the Nations:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (B’ Corinthians 12,9)

Regarding the ‘Sunday of Orthodoxy’ which You celebrated yesterday, the Anglican Church views the decision of the 7th Ecumenical Synod on the reinstatement of the Holy Icons that they truly reflect the uncreated Light of the Lord and from Him as a source is diffused to the (faces) Saints. For all this we thank God and we thank Your Beatitude for the testimony which You give.

In light of the forthcoming visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Gaza the following day, His Beatitude spoke regarding the support of our Patriarchate for the people who were affected during last year’s clashes. His Beatitude spoke to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the financial and managerial crisis of the Middle East Council of Churches and the efforts of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to upgrade its role as a Christian organization, empowering it to be a single unified Christian voice and a testament for Christians in the Middle East and for the peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims. For this His Beatitude requested the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When asked about his Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury explained that it is founded on the apostolic faith and tradition, in which its structure is not hierarchical but based on a collective way of life and administration. However this system has a weakness in co-operation which sometimes creates difficulties, because each of the thirty one (31) Anglican Churches sometimes decides on its own regarding issues which require a collective undertaking and decision making process such as bioethics, sexuality and women in the priesthood, etc.

The Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams said ‘This is why we invited other Christian Churches, like Yours, to the Lambeth Conference to listen and to be of help. We have accepted the ordination of women into the priesthood and we are already facing the ordination of women to the level of Bishop which has become a serious problem for us.

In addition the Church of England takes part constitutionally in the issuing of state laws. This privilege is difficult because the truth has to be confessed in a secular environment’.

‘The Church of England has experienced a decline in the participation in sacraments of its believers over the last fifty years. In the last twenty years protestant groups have emerged with intentions rather of evangelizing and not so in participating in the sacraments.

However in the last five to six years around five hundred New Congregations of our Anglican Church have surfaced. This is encouraging, as well as the advent of approximately twenty people who were ordained into the priesthood. I consider these to be signs of God’s Grace within our Church, for which we implore Your prayers’.

His Beatitude concluded by referring to the historical connections of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem with the Anglican Church and the British Commonwealth. His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III thanked the Anglican Church for their help towards the church of Jerusalem in Qatar during the first stages of its founding there and accepted an invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury for an official visit to the Anglican Church when time permits.

His Beatitude offered the Archbishop of Canterbury a commemorative gift for his visit to the Patriarchate, a ceramic icon of ‘Theotokos of Bethlehem’ and the Patriarchate’s precious publication of sacred objects with illustrations from the Church of Resurrection edited by Professor Nikolaos Olymbiou. To the escort of the Archbishop, His Eminence Michael Jackson Bishop of Ireland, His Beatitude offered a book of illuminated manuscripts of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem by Professor Vokotopoulos. To the rest of the escorts, medals were given depicting 1500 years of the history of Jerusalem together with a photo album on ceremonies of Jerusalem by photographer Ms. Gali Tibbon.

The Archbishop of Canterbury kindly reciprocated by offering his Beatitude a volume of prose by English authors regarding the spirituality of the Anglican Church.

Also present at the meeting was the elderly Jerusalemite Dr. Ioannis Tlil, an old and distinguished member of the Church and Jerusalem’s community, who offered to the Archbishop of Canterbury a book entitled ‘I am Jerusalem’. This was followed by a commemorative photograph taken for the visit of the Anglican delegation with His Beatitude at the Throne.

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HIS BEATITUDE’ S ADDRESS ON BEHALF OF ALL THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES OF THE HOLY LAND, BEFORE THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL MR SHIMON PERES

“Mr President,

Honourable Ministers,

Members of Parliament,

Distinguished Guests,

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government will be upon his shoulder. His name will be called the Angel of Great Counsel; for I shall bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health by Him. Great shall be His government, and of His peace there is no end…” (Isaiah 9:5&6).

Events and gatherings such as this one are of great importance for promoting values that are greatly needed in our present day.

The special character and position of the Churches is alluring to the uniqueness of this Holy Land. Sacred and spiritual, this region is host to the three monotheistic religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as being host to multi- culturalism and most importantly ethnico-religious diversity.  We, the community of the Holy Land in general and Christians in particular must always strive to speak united, invigorating one vision for peace and harmonious co-existence.

As we have recently said to a conference for interfaith dialogue at Georgetown University in Washington DC, in the cause of denouncing violence and promoting peace-building, the role of religious leaders, especially the clergy, is both crucial and fundamental. We do not believe that clergy should take the role of politicians; clergy have different, but equally serious ethical, social and pastoral responsibilities.  But we do consider that, just as political leaders must be shaped by the moral principles of their religious traditions, in the same way religious leaders have a role in forming congregations and communities of faithful people to exercise responsible citizenship. This role manifests itself at the grass-roots level through educating our congregations and the general public on the importance of peaceful symbiosis; in providing social services that focus on the equality of all people regardless of religious or ethnic affiliations; In taking strong positions in denouncing all forms of violent acts;  in leading and participating in public and private dialogue between different religious communities and ethnicities; And in supporting initiatives, institutions and leaders who are committed to the same social and civic good.

As we have gathered here today in a clear expression and manifestation of inter-religious history, understanding and existence, we have to admit that political polarization and ideological zeal and eagerness have increasingly posed a serious challenge to our humble efforts and great intentions. Since we have accepted the calling of the Almighty to become servants of His divine message, it is our duty to relentlessly enhance our efforts for improving the living and socio-economic conditions in which people of the Holy Land experience, thus further promoting a peaceful and just solution to alleviate the suffering of all affected.

To many people around the world the relationship between religion and political unrest has been complicated and vulnerable; It is our obligation as religious leaders, to lay foundations enabling all political efforts to defuse such complexity and present religion ad the most effective tool in reconciliation and peace building.

The historic rights, privileges and ancient customs, accorded to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and to the Christian churches in the Holy Land, have been substantiated during the many years in what we now call the “Status Quo”. This doctrine, especially in our beloved Holy Land must be safeguarded by the understanding, respect and protection of the “laissez faire” practiced by the governing authority to ensure our very existence and help further our work of calming effect and inducement of peace.

We are appreciative of the Authorities’ efforts in facilitating the access for pilgrims and worshipers and we commend them to continue and push further this holy and important provision; and allow Us to say: “more can always be done”. In this context and to underline the concerns common to our Christian community as a whole, We acknowledge the many positive steps that the State of Israel has taken to evaluate our concerns, and We stress the need for the continuation of progress for:

–         Free movement of the faithful;

–         Provisions of entry visas for clerics;

–         Honouring the privileges of Tax exemtion sancrioned by the sacred history; and

–         The historic standing of the ownership of Church property.

The inauspicious endeavours to attaining peace should not be ignored this festive season. This should be a reminder amidst our joyful celebrations that God’s will is loud and clear for both the political and religious leadership to persevere in our commitment to reaching peace.

Our work as religious leaders in the Birthplace of the Prophetic and Incarnate message is to raise awareness amongst people that peace not war, dialogue not indifference, respect not bigotry and bridges not barriers are the way to forge lasting peaceful ties between  believers of the various faiths who share this Holy Land namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Rest assured that both the Christian institutions and leadership, in the Holy Land are willing to employ their blessings and resources in furthering peace in the region because we believe that this constitutes one of the fundamental commandments of our faith which solidifies our existence and determines our mission.

Our fraternal noble wishes for this happy occasion on the New Year to all Jews, Christians and Muslims, who persistently pursued peace during times of great turmoil, as they set a role model for all those who believe in the true prophetic message of the incarnation of the divine logos. And to those, we extend our hand for assistance and offer our humble blessings.

As the custodians and servants of the Holy Places that bare testimony to the sacred history of redemption and salvation of human kind, we time and again commit ourselves to promoting peace and invite every human being to “soul searching”; in order to recognize the other’s entitlement to peace, respect and dignity; and we should always remember to behave in the same way as we woild like people to behave towards us. For it is written “…whatever you want man to do to you do also to them for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12)

Your Excellency, we express our sincere thanks to you for this cordial invitation and courteous hosting. We call upon the Lord Almighty to bless this coming New Year with fruitful achievements to warm our hearts, enlighten our minds and guide all the citizens of the State of Israel to fulfillment and prosperity.

Happy New Year.




HIS BEATITUDE’ S ADDRESS TO THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES GENERAL MEETING OF THE PALESTINE ISRAEL ECUMENICAL FORUM IN BETHLEHEM

“Your Excellencies, Your Eminencies,

Distinguished participants,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We greet you warmly on the occasion of this important Forum, with the Christmas message, the message of the reconciliation between heaven and earth which took place on the very locality over which this blessed meeting is taking place. Two years have passed since the launch of this initiative in Amman and much have been achieved through promoting this incarnate message of reconciliation, not only between God and man, but also between humans sharing common humanity. We re-applaud the choice of subject for our work and in the difficult endeavor of the resolution of conflict and of building and sustaining peace, for the art of dialogue and listening is of supreme consequence.

While the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people around the world turn to Bethlehem around this time of the year, the people in Bethlehem and in the Holy Land turn their hearts and minds to the world in search for assistance, hoping for peace to reach this part of the world. For many years Christmas in the Holy Land registers an irony of reality. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos of God the Father, intervened our human history and liberated our humanity from the evil of darkness by shedding upon us the light of wisdom, the light of righteousness. Where the world joyfully celebrates Christmas, the people who share this very earth over which Jesus Christ delivered this message, live deprived of practical manifestation of this message of peace. From within this scene of unrest ad instability emerges this community of the Almighty as an “endangered” component of the Holy Land to add to the issues we have to address, practically on the ground, in order to fulfill the commitments we made before the Lord and amongst ourselves.

As we convene around this dedicated manifestation to inter-religious action for peace and justice in this part of the world, represented in the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum, we have to admit that political polarization and ideological zeal and eagerness have increasingly posed a serious challenge to our humble efforts ad great intentions. Since we have accepted the Lord’s calling to become servants of his message, it is our duty to relentlessly increase our efforts for improving the living and socio-economic conditions in which people of the Holy Land experience, thus further promoting a peaceful and just solution to alleviate the suffering.

To many people around the world the relationship between religion and political unrest has been complicated and vulnerable; it is our obligation, as religious leaders, to lay foundations enabling all political efforts to defuse such complexity and present religion as the most effective tool in peace building.

We believe that the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum constitutes a legitimate platform from which, to launch comprehensive and collective efforts towards achieving peace that could be felt by individuals in our communities within the Holy Land. Prophet Jeremiah laments by saying: “Pease, peace. Bur where is peace? They were ashamed because they failed”.  (Jer. 6:14-15). We are confronted with political inability to carry on, but we need to submit to the fact that there is no shame in perseverance. We encourage and stand by politicians and decision makers to be more courageous and determined as ever, in order to fulfill the Lord’s message of peace, justice and reconciliation.

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem once again loudly reaffirms its commitment and support for all peace initiatives in our beloved region and calls upon all concerned parties to join efforts and to rise up to the challenge imposed upon our common humanity in a manner that will lead to the formation of a “de facto” united front for peace in the middle east/ capable of invariably defeating all forms of extremism through dialogue and awareness.

We thank you for your invitation to give these remarks, and we pray for God’s blessing upon all of you and upon the work of this seminar and upon all people working for peace. For “blessed are the peace-makers” (Matth. 5,9).

So that the voice crying in the wilderness (Matth. 3:3) would be transformed; praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”(Luke 2:14).

Thank you.

Bethlehem, 11 December 2009

Theophilos III,

Patriarch of Jerusalem




HIS BEATITUDE VISITS THE PHILANTHROPIC INSTITUTION ‘SIKSEK’ IN BETHANY

A nursing home for the elderly and people with special needs with the name ‘Four Homes of Mercy’ or ‘Siksek’, has been operating continuously since 1940 in the area of Bethany, not far from the Holy Convent of Martha and Maria, the sisters of Lazarus.

This philanthropic complex of buildings was established by the personal initiative of the Siksek, an Orthodox family, with the blessing of the late Patriarch of Jerusalem Venedictos and land which was donated by King Hussein of Jordan in 1962, and operates due to the initiatives and donations from philanthropic donors, organizations, and individuals.

The residents of this institution live free of charge, and irrespective of dogma or religion, are people such as the elderly, the infirm, adults and mainly children with mental or physical disabilities that are either serious or incurable. The social offering to society of this institution is recognized locally and internationally.  The dedicated service of the personnel and the transparency of the management of the Institution provide trust for financial donations which transcend the economic stalemate and continues to operate.

This institution has on its premises an Orthodox Chapel where priests of the Patriarchate are invited to perform the Holy Liturgy and other services.

His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III responded to the invitation of the Institution to perform the ceremony of the Sanctification of the water in occasion of the renovated parts inauguration. The renovation of these parts was possible with the sponsorship of the Welfare Association, the National Development Centre (NDC), and Liz Mulford with the French Cooperation.  His Beatitude was escorted by His Eminence Isychios Metropolitan of Capitolias, the Elder Chief Secretary His Eminence Aristarchos Archbishop of Constantina, Reverend Archimandrite Fr. Ieronymos, deacon Rev.Fr. Athanasios and Dr. Ioannou Tleel who has been a staff member for many years.

Amongst the participants at the ceremony were Mr. Gregor Manzuk , Representative of the IOCC organization, the President of the Pontifical Mission, Mr. Sami el Youssef, and the Vice President of the Wehdat  Alquds Organisation, Mr. Ahmad Rowedi.

At the entrance of the institution, His Beatitude was welcomed by the Board of Directors of the Institution and representatives of the Philanthropic Institutions of the Saint Jacob Cathedral of Jerusalem, from whence they escorted Him to the Chapel, where they chanted at the ceremony of the Sanctification of the water. His Beatitude inaugurated the renovated new parts and blessed them.  After the ceremony, a modest reception followed where Dr. Eiden, replacement Director of the Institution, addressed His Beatitude and the participants. Dr. Eiden referred to the more than seventy year old social service of the Institution and the improvement of the quality of living conditions and therapy of the patients from its renovated parts, as well as to the honour His Beatitude gives with his presence to the workers and residents.

His Beatitude praised the management, the board and the staff for the dedicated service to the patients, offered a contribution of $5,000 USD and was then shown the wards of the patients, which He blessed with the Sanctified water.

Chief Secretary’s Office

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