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PASCHAL GREETINGS TO THE CUSTOS AND THE FRANCISCAN FRATERNITY OF THE HOLY LAND

 

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

Your Paternity, Dear Father Francesco,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

As you celebrate the Feast of Feasts, we bring you the warm greetings of the Rum Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and we remember these words from an Easter hymn:

Though you descended to the grave, O Immortal One,

yet you destroyed the power of Hades,

and arose a victor, O Christ our God,

calling to the myrrh-bearing women,

Rejoice, and giving peace to your Apostles,

O you who grants resurrection to the Fallen.

(Kontakion, Plagal of the 4th Tone)

Here we understand that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ brings a new kind of peace – peace especially to the Apostles. But  He also gives a new kind of peace to the world, the peace that comes from the hope of eternal life that is given to us in the uncreated Light that shines from the Holy Tomb.

We rejoice in the peace that comes to us the followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that unites us in the common spiritual mission of the Holy Places. Our two Brotherhoods have seen a deepening peace and unity of purpose through the renovation of the Sacred Edicule and now in the face of the new and unprecedented threats against the integrity of the Christian communities of our beloved Holy Land. Once again, we wish to express our appreciation for your ready co-operation with us in all these challenges.

While deeply regrettable, our recent joint decision, along with the Armenian Patriarchate, to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in protest to various actions by radical elements in our society, emphasised not just to the authorities here, but to the whole world, our united front. May this new harmony between us, that has been shaped and formed by unforeseen circumstances, lead us to new paths of a deeper union in Christ and mutual trust and regard. As Saint Paul reminds us in the Letter to the Ephesians:

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).

Here again we hear of the peace that is the fruit of the resurrection, and which is the gift of Almighty God to the world and especially to his Church. It is our mission so to live in this peace of the resurrection that the world may see and know the saving truth of the Gospel.

May “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). We assure you, dear Father Francesco, and your Brotherhood and the communities that you serve, of our fervent prayers, and we wish you a joyous and peaceful Paschal Feast.

Christ is risen!

Thank you.




PASCHAL MESSAGE OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III

THEOPHILOS III

By the Mercy of God Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem

 and all Palestine

To members of the Church, grace and mercy and peace from the All-holy and Life-giving Tomb of the Resurrected Christ.

 

                  Christ is risen from the dead

Having destroyed the bonds of death

Earth proclaim great joy!

Heavens praise the glory of God!

(Praises of the Octoechos, tone 7)                                 

 

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Who was made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Only Begotten Son and Word of God, Who was born in the flesh in Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus, was associated with the people and benefited them, preached repentance and the coming of the kingdom of God on earth, established love and even love for our enemies as a law of life, healed the sick and those suffering from incurable diseases, resurrected the dead, willingly suffered the cross by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, shed His immaculate blood for the remission of our sins, died on the cross in the form of a man and was buried next to Golgotha in “a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid” (John 19:41). At His burial, when “they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard” (Mat. 27:66), “the children of the redeemed ones” saw His end.

However, God’s Will for His Son and the salvation of the humankind was different. “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body” (Mark 16:1), they found themselves in front of an unheard of and marvelous sight. They found the stone of the door moved aside and heard an angel saying to them from the tomb: ““You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).

This was God’s philanthropic providence for man, the Resurrection of His Son. Having willingly endured suffering and death for our sake on the cross as a man, Christ was risen from the tomb as God-man. “The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter His glory” (Luke 24:26). His glory lies in the humility of His cross. It was through His cross that joy came to the whole world. It was by Christ’s cross that the homicide devil, was mightily conquered. “By death, Christ trampled down death”. Death was trampled down completely, it had no power over Christ. Having entered Hades through the cross, Christ was resurrected, and along with Him, He resurrected the first created couple and their descendants, and took them into paradise with Him, to which paradise He also deemed worthy in a single day the pious thief, who theologized in repentance.

This joyful angelic announcement of the resurrection was confirmed by the Resurrected Lord Himself, through His many appearances. At first He was seen by the myrrh-bearing women, “after that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:6-7) in His radiant and glorified through the cross human body, speaking to them, “showing them his hands and feet, confirming that He is not a ghost, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as He does, taking food and eating before them” (Luke 24: 39-43), “giving them His peace and the power to forgive sins by the power the Holy Spirit, Whom He breathed in them” (John 20:21-23).

“To whom [the Apostles] also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3); for forty days after His Resurrection, then He was ascended in heaven and sat on the right side of His Father, after he had received His incarnate nature and had also glorified our deified human nature through the cross. From heaven, as he had foretold, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come” (Acts 2:1), He sent to the Apostles another Comforter, the Spirit of truth “showing them forth as supremely wise, and through them didst draw the world into His net”.

Indeed, the whole world was drawn into His net, through the inspired by the Holy Spirit preaching of the Apostles, on the person, the teaching and the redeeming work of the Incarnate, Crucified and Resurrected Jesus Christ. On the rock of the Apostles’ confession, as He foretold, “did the Lord build His Church” (Mat. 16:18), and sealed and established it in the world by His Holy Spirit. Ever since, the Church as His mystical body, has been offering a peaceful, reconciliatory, taming of the human morals, sanctifying and soul-and-body-redeeming mission all over the world.

This mission of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is also carried out by the Mother of Churches, “the first to receive the remission of sins through the Resurrection”, around the places of grace, the places where our Saviour Christ lived as man, and during the night of the feast of the Glorious Resurrection it ardently prays from the All-holy and Life-giving Tomb for the peace of the world, of the Middle East and of the Holy Land, and wishes to its congregation in the Holy Land and in every place of the earth, as well as to all those who honour it, the noble pilgrims, health, strength and every blessing coming from the Resurrected Christ.

In the Holy City of Jerusalem PASCHA 2018

With Fatherly wishes and Patriarchal blessings

Fervent Supplicant for all before God,

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 

 

       

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 




FESTAL VISIT OF THE PATRIARCHATE TO THE ARMENIANS

The visit of our Patriarchate to the Armenian Patriarchate for their joint Feast of Christmas and Theophany, in return of their visit on our Christmas Feast, took place on Saturday morning, January 7/20, 2018.

On this visit His Beatitude and His entourage of Hagiotaphite Fathers were received by the Armenian Patriarch Manukian Nourhan and the Armenian Brotherhood in Jerusalem. His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos addressed the Armenian Brotherhood as follows:

“Your Beatitude, Patriarch Nourhan,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

As you celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, we wish to express to you our Christmas and Epiphany greetings, and we recall the beautiful words of one of our Christmas services:

Make glad O Jerusalem,

 and all you who love Zion, keep the feast.

Today the ancient bond of condemnation of Adam is lossed.

Paradise is opened to us.

(Tone 4 by John the Monk)

The Divine Logos became flesh in a particular time and place, in our very midst here in the Holy Land. Here the opening of Paradise was announced to humanity in the Incarnation of the Divine Logos. Here the Divine-human encounter restored us to our rightful relationship with God and with each other.

We to whom the Divine Providence has entrusted the guardianship and the diakonia of the Holy Places understand this. So do our communities that have lived here down the ages. And so do the many thousands of pilgrims who flock to this Holy City and this Holy Land every month for spiritual refreshment.

We have long known the importance of this place, and we have also known the supreme importance of maintaining the patterns and supports that sustain our communities and the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the Middle East. We rejoice at this season in all that we have accomplished together, especially the restoration of the Sacred Edicule and we look forward to our further co-operation in phase II of the renovation of that part of Church of the Holy Sepulchre beneath the rotunda.

The world takes great encouragement from these joint ventures and from our unity of purpose, just as our unity of purpose in the face of recent threats to the Status Quo has been of supreme importance. As is well known, and as we have emphasized time and again, the Bill of Church Land and the Jaffa Gate case are real challenges to the well-being of our communities and to the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious landscape of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. As we have been bringing our case to the international community, we have seen how our common and united efforts have affected those whom we have visited, and we have been deeply encouraged by their statements of support for us all here in the Holy Land.

We doing all this not for the sake of the Holy Places alone, but also for the well-being of Christians and their presence in the land of the Nativity. We wish to take the occasion of these holy days to express our appreciation to you, Your Beatitude, and to all the Heads of Churches for your recent statement of support in addressing the challenges we are facing.

May the newborn Christ, whose incarnation makes the whole creation rejoice, deepen our bonds and give us grace to continue our joint efforts, both in the work we are doing in maintaining the Holy Places, as well as in defending our historic rights and privileges enshrined in the Status Quo. Mutual respect is fundamental to our harmonious co-existence and is of paramount significance to our mission here.

We wish you, Your Beatitude, a blessed Christmas, and we ask for God’s blessing on your Brotherhood and o the Armenian Community in the Holy Land.

Thank you.”

The Armenian Patriarch replied to His Beatitude’s address, wishing a peaceful and cooperative New Year 2018.

From Secretariat-General

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httpv://youtu.be/ipEDOSLr6RU

 

 




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE ARMENIAN DELEGATION ON THEIR VISIT TO THE PATRIARCHATE FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Beatitude Patriarch Nourhan,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

We welcome you to our Rum Orthodox Patriarchate and we thank you very much for your greetings on the occasion of our celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this season we sing

O Christ, the true Light who enlightens and sanctifies

 every person who comes into the world,

let the light of your countenance be marked upon us,

that in it we may say the light unapproachable.

(Prayer from the First Hour, Christmas Eve)

We give thanks for the true Light that has come into the world, and we take to heart the implications of the Incarnation of our world. In this Holy City and Holy Land of the divine-human encounter, we know the power of the holy places to renew and refresh the soul and give hope to all who worship God in them.

We also give thanks at this time for the support that we have received from religious and governmental leaders around the world as we have shared with them our concerns about the new pressures and difficulties that the Christian communities of this City and region are now facing. We have been heartened by their statements in support of the Status Quo and their condemnation of those radical elements in our region that would like to turn Jerusalem and the Holy Land into an exclusive, rather than an inclusive society, in blatant disregard of our historic right and privileges and of our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious landscape.

We are grateful that the Heads of the Churches of the Holy Land have expressed our solidarity in this matter and that we stand united. The well-known challenges, that is the Bill of Church Lands that is circulating in the Knesset and the recent judgment in the Jaffa Gate case, have alerted us all to the threat to the Status Quo that is before us. The Christian Community is of the essence of the Holy Land and the Middle East, and this presence must be upheld and supported by all.

As we keep this glorious feast, may the true Light of the Sun of Justice, that is the newborn Christ, that enlightens everyone who comes into the world, enlighten our hearts and minds and may he give us strength and resolve in our spiritual mission to guard and serve the Holy Places, and to ensure the well-being of the Christian presence here.

Thank you.




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE ARMENIAN DELEGATION ON THEIR VISIT TO THE PATRIARCHATE FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Beatitude Patriarch Nourhan,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

We welcome you to our Rum Orthodox Patriarchate and we thank you very much for your greetings on the occasion of our celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this season we sing

O Christ, the true Light who enlightens and sanctifies

 every person who comes into the world,

let the light of your countenance be marked upon us,

that in it we may say the light unapproachable.

(Prayer from the First Hour, Christmas Eve)

We give thanks for the true Light that has come into the world, and we take to heart the implications of the Incarnation of our world. In this Holy City and Holy Land of the divine-human encounter, we know the power of the holy places to renew and refresh the soul and give hope to all who worship God in them.

We also give thanks at this time for the support that we have received from religious and governmental leaders around the world as we have shared with them our concerns about the new pressures and difficulties that the Christian communities of this City and region are now facing. We have been heartened by their statements in support of the Status Quo and their condemnation of those radical elements in our region that would like to turn Jerusalem and the Holy Land into an exclusive, rather than an inclusive society, in blatant disregard of our historic right and privileges and of our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious landscape.

We are grateful that the Heads of the Churches of the Holy Land have expressed our solidarity in this matter and that we stand united. The well-known challenges, that is the Bill of Church Lands that is circulating in the Knesset and the recent judgment in the Jaffa Gate case, have alerted us all to the threat to the Status Quo that is before us. The Christian Community is of the essence of the Holy Land and the Middle East, and this presence must be upheld and supported by all.

As we keep this glorious feast, may the true Light of the Sun of Justice, that is the newborn Christ, that enlightens everyone who comes into the world, enlighten our hearts and minds and may he give us strength and resolve in our spiritual mission to guard and serve the Holy Places, and to ensure the well-being of the Christian presence here.

Thank you.




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE FRANCISCAN CUSTODY FOR THEIR VISIT TO THE PATRIARCH FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Paternity, dear Father Francesco,

Beloved Members of our respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

We welcome you to our Patriarchate for this happy Feast, and we thank you for your kind greetings as we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We sing with jubilation

Your nativity, O Christ our God,

 has illumined the world like the Light of Wisdom.

The Uncreated Light that shines from the cave at Bethlehem not only illumines us; it gives hope to our region and our world. For this is the Light that the darkness can never overcome.

As we look back over the year that is past, we recall the 800th anniversary of the arrival of Father Elia da Cortona and his friar companions at Akko in the year 1217. We were pleased to be able to be a part of your celebrations in Assisi by the presence of our representative, His Eminence Archbishop Nectarios, and we are glad that this year also saw the significant collaboration between us in the restoration and rededication of the Sacred Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre.

For all this we give thanks to God, and we wish to express to you, dear Father Francesco, our gratitude to you for your commitment to the security and well-being of the Holy Places. Our unity of purpose in this endeavor is of supreme importance for the good not just of our respective Brotherhoods and communities, but also for the Christian presence and witness in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Our co-operation has not only accomplished a great deal, it has laid an important foundation as we look to phase II of the work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and as we look to the renovation and restoration of the Sacred Grotto of the Basilica of the Nativity. Both these projects will require our ongoing relationship of trust and mutual respect.

Even as we celebrate all these good things, we share a mutual concern for threats against the Christian community that have increased in recent months. The Bill of Church Lands would, if passed, significantly alter the provisions of the Status Quo and intrude on the historic rights of the Churches. We are all deeply concerned that such legislation is even being considered at all. And the Jaffa Gate case represents and assault on the Christian Quarter by a group of radical extremists who seek to destroy the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious integrity of Jerusalem.

We are encouraged by the support we have received from the international community, both from Church and governmental leaders. There have been many public expressions of concern and support, and this is an encouragement to both our Brotherhoods to remain resolute both in our pastoral ministry to our communities and to pilgrims, and also to ensuring the Christian patrimony that Divine Providence has entrusted in our care.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos, who deigned to accept our human nature and our human life, and who therefore knew our suffering in himself, is the source of our joy and our hope in this mission. As we celebrate the Nativity, we ask His Most Holy Mother the Theotokos to pray for us, that the one who contained within her womb the Uncontainable One, may give us strength by her prayers, that we may be embraced by the Light of Wisdom.

We wish you a happy Christmas and New Year.

Thank you.

 




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE FRANCISCAN CUSTODY FOR THEIR VISIT TO THE PATRIARCH FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Paternity, dear Father Francesco,

Beloved Members of our respective Brotherhoods,

Dear Fathers,

We welcome you to our Patriarchate for this happy Feast, and we thank you for your kind greetings as we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We sing with jubilation

Your nativity, O Christ our God,

 has illumined the world like the Light of Wisdom.

The Uncreated Light that shines from the cave at Bethlehem not only illumines us; it gives hope to our region and our world. For this is the Light that the darkness can never overcome.

As we look back over the year that is past, we recall the 800th anniversary of the arrival of Father Elia da Cortona and his friar companions at Akko in the year 1217. We were pleased to be able to be a part of your celebrations in Assisi by the presence of our representative, His Eminence Archbishop Nectarios, and we are glad that this year also saw the significant collaboration between us in the restoration and rededication of the Sacred Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre.

For all this we give thanks to God, and we wish to express to you, dear Father Francesco, our gratitude to you for your commitment to the security and well-being of the Holy Places. Our unity of purpose in this endeavor is of supreme importance for the good not just of our respective Brotherhoods and communities, but also for the Christian presence and witness in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Our co-operation has not only accomplished a great deal, it has laid an important foundation as we look to phase II of the work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and as we look to the renovation and restoration of the Sacred Grotto of the Basilica of the Nativity. Both these projects will require our ongoing relationship of trust and mutual respect.

Even as we celebrate all these good things, we share a mutual concern for threats against the Christian community that have increased in recent months. The Bill of Church Lands would, if passed, significantly alter the provisions of the Status Quo and intrude on the historic rights of the Churches. We are all deeply concerned that such legislation is even being considered at all. And the Jaffa Gate case represents and assault on the Christian Quarter by a group of radical extremists who seek to destroy the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious integrity of Jerusalem.

We are encouraged by the support we have received from the international community, both from Church and governmental leaders. There have been many public expressions of concern and support, and this is an encouragement to both our Brotherhoods to remain resolute both in our pastoral ministry to our communities and to pilgrims, and also to ensuring the Christian patrimony that Divine Providence has entrusted in our care.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos, who deigned to accept our human nature and our human life, and who therefore knew our suffering in himself, is the source of our joy and our hope in this mission. As we celebrate the Nativity, we ask His Most Holy Mother the Theotokos to pray for us, that the one who contained within her womb the Uncontainable One, may give us strength by her prayers, that we may be embraced by the Light of Wisdom.

We wish you a happy Christmas and New Year.

Thank you.

 




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE HEADS OF CHURCHES AND HEADS OF THE COMMUNITIES OF THE HOLY LAND ON THEIR VISIT FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Churches and Communities,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We are delighted to greet you, dear Friends, at this joyous season, and we thank you for your Christmas greetings. As we sing in our worship

Let the creation rejoice exceedingly:

for the Creator now makes himself to be created,

and he who was before all things now makes himself

known as God newly revealed.

(Canticle Nine from Compline of the Forefeast)

As we celebrate the incarnation of the Divine Logos, we celebrate both the universal and the particular of the divine-human encounter. For by his incarnation, God has taken on our human flesh, and so saved all humanity; and by this same Incarnation, God became a human being in a particular time and place, and made this City and Land holy by his life, by the shedding of his redeeming blood, and by entrusting his body to this earth.

As we keep this great feast of our salvation, we wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our new-born Lord, for, according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, “he was born in the flesh so that we might be born in his own spirit; the Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of man may become sons of God.” It is in this confidence that recently we have stood united as the Heads of the Churches in the face of new and unprecedented challenges, especially related to the Status Quo of Jerusalem and more specifically the Christian Quarter. Our unity of purpose is not for ourselves alone; our unity is our Christian martyria – a sign of hope for our world in which there is so much division and confusion.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos is the reminder to us of our spiritual mission here in guarding and serving the Holy Places, and in pastoring the Christian community, which has always called this City and region our home. Because the Incarnate Logos has walked on this very ground, we have an enduring commitment to ensure that Jerusalem and the Holy Land remain an inclusive society where there is a vibrant and vital Christian presence.

And we say this because our mission is to spread and proclaim the values of the Gospel of love, forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation.

We have taken our cause to the international forum, and we have received tremendous encouragement and support. This has been deeply moving for us, and we are happy to say that those who we have met these last several months have a clear understanding of the pressures we are all facing in our pastoral ministries to our respective communities, and many have made strong public statements of support. We take this opportunity to express our thanks to His Excellency Archbishop Pizzaballa, who was instrumental in arranging a historic meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, and to His Grace, Archbishop Dawani, who helped set up our meeting with His Grace, Archbishop Welby, as well as with members of the House of Lords.

We must acknowledge the fact that those who we have met have shown to us that they are indeed our brothers and our firm supporters, and that they are deeply concerned for all our respective communities.

We shall continue this work by God’s grace, and we wish to take this blessed occasion to emphasize once again the importance of our unity and our mutual respect in this regard. The threats that we face are not against our community only, but against the Christian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a whole; and together we must face these threats to ensure that the framework and structures that have guaranteed our historic and inalienable rights and privileges down the ages remain in place and in force. This is for the good of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious character of Jerusalem.

We thank you for this Christmas gathering and your greetings. Let us congratulate today the new Lutheran Bishop-elect, the Reverend Sani Ibrahim Azhar. We assure you, dear friends, of our prayers this Christmastide as we rejoice with the whole creation that the Creator has been born among us, full of grace and truth, to be the light that enlightens our hearts and minds, who brings hope to the world.

Thank you.




ADDRESS OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE HEADS OF CHURCHES AND HEADS OF THE COMMUNITIES OF THE HOLY LAND ON THEIR VISIT FOR THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY

 

9 January 2018

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Churches and Communities,

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We are delighted to greet you, dear Friends, at this joyous season, and we thank you for your Christmas greetings. As we sing in our worship

Let the creation rejoice exceedingly:

for the Creator now makes himself to be created,

and he who was before all things now makes himself

known as God newly revealed.

(Canticle Nine from Compline of the Forefeast)

As we celebrate the incarnation of the Divine Logos, we celebrate both the universal and the particular of the divine-human encounter. For by his incarnation, God has taken on our human flesh, and so saved all humanity; and by this same Incarnation, God became a human being in a particular time and place, and made this City and Land holy by his life, by the shedding of his redeeming blood, and by entrusting his body to this earth.

As we keep this great feast of our salvation, we wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our new-born Lord, for, according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria, “he was born in the flesh so that we might be born in his own spirit; the Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of man may become sons of God.” It is in this confidence that recently we have stood united as the Heads of the Churches in the face of new and unprecedented challenges, especially related to the Status Quo of Jerusalem and more specifically the Christian Quarter. Our unity of purpose is not for ourselves alone; our unity is our Christian martyria – a sign of hope for our world in which there is so much division and confusion.

The Incarnation of the Divine Logos is the reminder to us of our spiritual mission here in guarding and serving the Holy Places, and in pastoring the Christian community, which has always called this City and region our home. Because the Incarnate Logos has walked on this very ground, we have an enduring commitment to ensure that Jerusalem and the Holy Land remain an inclusive society where there is a vibrant and vital Christian presence.

And we say this because our mission is to spread and proclaim the values of the Gospel of love, forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation.

We have taken our cause to the international forum, and we have received tremendous encouragement and support. This has been deeply moving for us, and we are happy to say that those who we have met these last several months have a clear understanding of the pressures we are all facing in our pastoral ministries to our respective communities, and many have made strong public statements of support. We take this opportunity to express our thanks to His Excellency Archbishop Pizzaballa, who was instrumental in arranging a historic meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, and to His Grace, Archbishop Dawani, who helped set up our meeting with His Grace, Archbishop Welby, as well as with members of the House of Lords.

We must acknowledge the fact that those who we have met have shown to us that they are indeed our brothers and our firm supporters, and that they are deeply concerned for all our respective communities.

We shall continue this work by God’s grace, and we wish to take this blessed occasion to emphasize once again the importance of our unity and our mutual respect in this regard. The threats that we face are not against our community only, but against the Christian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a whole; and together we must face these threats to ensure that the framework and structures that have guaranteed our historic and inalienable rights and privileges down the ages remain in place and in force. This is for the good of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious character of Jerusalem.

We thank you for this Christmas gathering and your greetings. Let us congratulate today the new Lutheran Bishop-elect, the Reverend Sani Ibrahim Azhar. We assure you, dear friends, of our prayers this Christmastide as we rejoice with the whole creation that the Creator has been born among us, full of grace and truth, to be the light that enlightens our hearts and minds, who brings hope to the world.

Thank you.




CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS TO THE FRANCISCAN CUSTODY OF THE HOLY LAND

 

Your Paternity Father Francesco,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Members of our Respective Fraternities,

Dear Fathers,

It is with great joy that we greet you, Your Excellency, dear Father Francesco, and your community as you celebrate the Incarnation of the Divine Logos, our Lord Jesus Christ, especially in this year in which you also mark the 800th anniversary of the presence of the Custody in the Holy Land. We recall that Saint Francis himself had a deep devotion to this feast, and is credited with the creation of the first Christmas crèche. Saint Francis himself said:

I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and donkey stood by.

The whole world looks to the Holy City of Bethlehem and the Holy Land with this same longing, the longing to see with our own eyes, and to know in our hearts, the mystery of this divine-human encounter.

As we celebrate the Christmas feast, we remember in thanksgiving the great event of this year as we celebrated the renovation of the Sacred Edicule. A momentous event in itself, it also represented a new and deeper level of co-operation between our two fraternities, to whom Divine Providence has entrusted the care and guardianship of the Holy Sites. Even now the discoveries that lay beneath the Edicule are capturing the religious and spiritual imaginations of the world. On this occasion we wish to express our gratitude to you and your fraternity once again for this special co-operation.

We look forward to the second phase of this important work, which encompasses the area beneath the floor of the rotunda.

Our deeper co-operation has also found important fruit in our joint response to less happy events of this year, most especially the proposed law that is circulating in the Knesset that will alter the provisions, rights, and privileges of the Status Quo, as well as the unacceptable attack on our “Jaffa Gate” in which radical settler groups are attempting an intrusion into the Christian Quarter in an attempt to strike at the heart of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious character of Jerusalem.

Our unity as the Heads of the Churches, Your Paternity in our opposition to these common threats not only to our historic rights, but also to the integrity of this Holy City and Holy Land, is so important. In our pastoral ministry we are all committed to a vital and vibrant Christian community here, and we are also committed to keeping open to all people without distinction access to the Holy Sites as places of devotion and worship.

As we rejoice with you in the spirit of Saint Francis, who recognized the importance of the Holy Places as a source of spiritual renewal and refreshment, let us remain united in our resolve in the ministry that has been entrusted to us. The earth and the heavens exult as heaven comes down to earth and the incarnate Logos takes on our human flesh and our human life. As Saint Francis himself wrote:

Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the Glorious One,

Let us praise and exalt him above all for ever.

We wish you, Your Excellency, and all your brethren and communities, a blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year. May the light that shines from Bethlehem bring hope to our world, and strengthen us all.

Thank you.